it’s pretty amazing what can happen while sitting in a coffee shop. this is a story of my meeting with a complete stranger, and by God’s grace, i’m pretty sure, 200%, everything happened just as it was supposed to, in fact, as i sat, talking to this complete stranger, i thought to myself, “wow God, you knew this was gonna happen, didn’t You?” and so, here is my story:
walked into my favorite coffee shop (aka the only coffee shop in baguio city, so it sometimes seems), tired from a long day at the office, and just needed to catch up on work that i had procrastinated on. i look around for an electrical outlet to plug in my battery-drained laptop, and i find one – right in the corner, next to a guy who could have been my age, long hair, flip flops, friendly-looking very much surfer like. i put a book down in the chair, and asked him if he could save my spot, while i went to buy a cookie, and i think he was alarmed mostly that i did not sound like a local filipino.
he was nice enough to help me plug in my battery charger, and when i got back to the seat, i saw he put the wireless password right in front of me on the table, as a subtle way to share the knowledge. nice gestures all around, and so i started some conversation – where are you from? what are you doing here? etc…the usual small talk. he answered, was a little reserved, but answered the questions, and i learned that he was “just chillin in baguio for some vacation.” he didn’t really elaborate, and i didn’t think i knew him well enough to keep probing for questions like my usual curiosity likes to do…so then we went back to doing our work, but because we were facing each other, we made sure to avoid awkward moments where we could potentially make eye contact. and no, this wasn’t like a, oohh coffeeshop love story potential moment – in fact, very far from it. if anything, the aura i felt, was that, homie wanted to make conversation, but there was a fight within him to start.
so his way of starting conversation and breaking the silence was by saying, “hey, we can share the table so you could put your laptop on it.” i said, “no, it’s ok, but thanks! i’m fine.” ten seconds later, he said, “can you not refuse my offer? i might get mad (he said it jokingly, don’t worry. haha)” and so then i was like, “haha, ok, fine!” so then i put my laptop on the table, which was a big help actually, and then he removed his laptop, and i said, “no! we have to share!” so then that opened up conversation. it was a situation. but it worked out!
so then in a half second moment, he said, “so, do you live here or are you vacationing?” i told him i was a missionary, and he said, “WHOA! like, vocation?” and immediately, i was like, oh hey! you’re speaking my kinda language. he told me he was catholic and went to a catholic school and what not, growing up…he asked me what my work was, i told him all about it, and he was all ears. i think this was the first time i saw someone get so excited (like, wide open eyes!) about hearing the fact that i was a missioner, and hearing the details regarding the work i do out here…he asked questions, and he definitely showed interest. it was really bizarre, but i thought it was pretty cool, so i went with it! we know how i can just talk…
so then, i asked him again, “so what are you doing here again? i don’t get it.” he then opened up to me and told me, he actually ran away from home. after he heard my schpeel about the foundation that i work at, he said, ” hmm maybe i can visit sometime? ” i said, “yeah, sure!” and he said, ” i think i need a counselor. do you think there’s someone that i can talk to?” as soon as he said that, i closed my laptop, and said, “ok, homie, you can talk to me. what’s goin’ on?” within two seconds, he just started on his situation. he shared with me the stories of his family, why he ran away, how he feels, what he wants, and he just continued sharing his feelings.
what i was blown away by, was his true authenticity and how i could feel that he really was troubled emotionally, by the problems he had, and how he just wanted to be loved by his mom. he felt that his mom was spending too much time at work, and as a result, he abandoned home and just went off doing his own thing. he then showed me a fb message of how his father misses him and just wants to know that his son is ok…beyond that, was a series of messages that his father sent him, but he didn’t reply to any of them. he shared with me his family history and background, and i just listened and listened and listened.
let me back up a moment – that very day, i spent that morning at a counseling seminar and learned about its psycho-spiritual relation to Jesus’ approach when mentoring others…not gonna lie, i zoned out many times and only attended the half-day because i could not sit there for the whole thing. so i am sitting with this kid, 5 hours later, counseling and advising, and i think to myself, “really God? dang, Holy Spirit, you work quickly!” (i also probably should have paid more attention at the morning session!)
and so, he asked me what i thought, and it was so surprising because many of the things he shared with me were similar things that i have experienced in the past – separated parents, trying your best to do well and excel, pretty typical teenage things. i affirmed what homie shared with me, and i shared with him too some of my same experiences from the past. when i shared those moments, he was so surprised that he was able to relate to me – he kept asking me questions about how i dealt with this and that and the challenges…and i just shared openly with him. it was very comfortable, and i told him, “listen, you just need to be honest and speak from your heart and no matter how your mom reacts to what you say, she can not deny your feelings – if they are honest, AND if they come from a place of love. at least she will know how you feel.” after sharing with him some stories, he told me that he wishes he could muster up the same courage that i had. i told him to pray before he talks with his mom, and to make SURE that he comes from a place of LOVE, otherwise it may not necessarily be received as well. / really vague overview of our conversation, but that was the gist of it. 🙂
our conversation went for a good forty minutes or so, and i kept thinking, dang, who is this kid? i found out he is 18 and he was just going around baguio, taking some time away from home to think. he lived 8 hours away by bus.
as he was packing up, he showed me a book he had in his backpack. it was “purpose driven life” and he said he wants to start reading it with his mom, so they can read it together and then discuss it, like a “normal family.” i told him the author lived near to me in southern california, and he thought that was a cool connection. i thought so too! when he showed me that, i thought to myself, “wow, God. is this You telling me to not be scared of this kid?” it was as if i heard in my head someone saying, “don’t worry. it’s ok to talk to him.” of course, i always have to be on guard with these random conversations, but this one was different.
he had to leave and asked if we could meet up again to keep talking. and i said yeah, for sure! we made plans to meet up for breakfast and then he started to walk away, and i was like, homie. you don’t even know my name! and then he said, “you’re seminary girl.” and he walked away.
he walked away and the whole evening i replayed moments from that chance encounter. it just seemed so too ironic that that very morning, i was attending a seminar on counseling, and then this afternoon, this kid straight up talks about his need to speak to someone about some life challenges. some challenges that i was very much able to relate to. i was glad to be there, and i feel like it was not just by chance. i kept thinking to myself, “i hope i said the right thing. i hope i said the right thing.” and i felt like i shared with him the best that i could.
the next morning, i showed up to the spot for our breakfast meeting, and he did not show. now, while that usually would make me feel super rejected and make me feel as if i totally got stood up (which i DID get stood up!), it did not bother me one bit. why? because i ended up using that time to write in my journal about it. and to reflect about it. and to eat a good breakfast. 🙂
i came up with the conclusion that i’m glad he didn’t show up. there wasn’t anything else that needed to be said or discussed, and the rest was up to him, and i listened and i said what i felt that i needed to say – to help him (as best as i could). moreso, i prayed that he was on a bus home.
and so my conclusion?
i have concluded that he may just have been an angel. i don’t have any other explanation, and i don’t believe it “just happened” for the heck of it. nope, he may have helped me reveal part of my vocation and he has definitely left a mark with me. to this day, i still pray for him and for peace in his family. while i will never know what is, why that happened, and what comes next for him, no doubt that we had a grace-filled conversation.
upon beginning to reflect on this conversation and this space that i shared with this 18-year old, the first verse that came to my mind was: “Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some people have entertained angels without knowing it.” (Hebrews 13:2). yup.
that and/or Blessed Pedro Calungsod decided to hear about my missionary travels all for himself in real life. which i think would be a great explanation too. 🙂
and with that, AMEN. thank you Holy Spirit!