McDonald’s Coffee and God’s Grace

A few months after moving to Johnson City I decided to walk up to McDonalds by my house and see if there were any other old guys like me gathering for coffee. Having traveled around the country, it seems like McDonalds has taken the place of the local café for retired guys, and that was true of the Boones Creek location as well.  I arrived at 9am and there were several gathered at a table up front when a man at the table, Gerald, spotted me and said, “pull up a chair”. They wanted to know where I lived and told of another guy that is on my road. It was almost 2 weeks until I returned and they said, “where ya been?” – so, I took that to mean that I was in the group already so I started getting more regular and paying close attention to their conversation trying to learn as much as I could about each one.

One of my desires in retirement was to be able to do some of the small jobs or home repairs for people that are no longer able to themselves.  As time went on, Gerald was the first to let me do a project for him and that soon led to helping him with a project at his church.  One man in particular was on my heart from the beginning because his wife is in memory care and he has all the home responsibilities too.  He didn’t share much about himself or his wife, so it was hard to find common ground, then he told me that he was reading the Jan Karon “Mitford Series” to his wife each day.  So, I decided to start reading the series to give me understanding of them and some common ground for conversation.  Soon I realized that the gospel message is not hidden at all in the Mitford story and from that concluded that my new friend was at least open to the gospel, though I had no reason to believe they went to church.  Then, just before Easter this year, I gave all of the guys a copy of Colin Smith’s book “Heaven, How I Got Here”.  Most of them read it, and a couple said that their wife did also, and liked it. But my friend read it to his wife with dementia – then he told me it was the best book he ever read and that was all he was going to say about it!  Well, that opened the door to doing little jobs for him that he needed done and giving me (and Karen) freedom to just show up at his house.  Now he is ok with us visiting his wife or weeding his garden. Others in the group have also opened up and allowed me to help them. Getting to do what God made me for makes my day, and their day, better!

I didn’t grow up here, so a lot of conversation about local people is a disconnect for me, and I don’t have an interest in sports, so how their teams perform doesn’t matter much for me either, but I do know that all of us have a need to be recognized, greeted by name, and sincerely welcomed into a circle, and I can do that!

Grateful for McDonalds coffee, and God’s grace that are new each morning!

Michael Hatfield