Our neighborhood elementary school has something called the “buddy bench.” If a student is missing their playmate who might be absent, or they just feel as though they need a friend, they can have a seat there and another student will soon join them or invite them to play. It’s part of the culture fostered at that campus.
What brought this to mind is a message I recently received from a woman I used to work with who always adds the following quotation to her email signature:
Be Kind, For Everyone You Meet Is Fighting A Battle You Know Nothing About
All of us encounter members of our communities who are familiar to us, yet we don’t know them personally. Someone I knew once called these folks “well-known unknowns.”
Such was the case with a person we’d often see at a café we frequent. He seemed to have a management role there or maybe that’s just the way it appeared given his deportment.
A few days ago, I went online to see if the café had any live music scheduled. On their facebook page, I saw his photo with a recent message saying the café had “lost one of it’s own” and that a crowd funding site had been organized for donations to benefit the young son he left behind. I’d never known he was a father.
I would have guessed him to be in his late thirties or early forties. He was bald, muscular, handsome, soft-spoken and always quick to smile. The message ended with the phone number for the National Suicide Prevention hotline. So sad.
I think of all the times he greeted my husband and me, often remembering our usual order and apologizing when the café no longer carried our favorite beer. He’d bring us our food and check in a few minutes later to see if everything was alright. He always had a kind, gentle, pleasant demeanor. I recall a day he had to ask another customer to leave. She’d been openly stealing handfuls of condiment packets and he kindly but firmly told her it was time to go.
I’m so sorry to hear he felt it was his time to go. I wish I’d told him how much I appreciated the way he always made us feel so welcome.