This Northwest hotel exists for travelers like me. People who have resources and who can be comfortable while traveling. My days of sleeping in cars as a “lifestyle” option are over, and a little plastic card allows me warmth and a free breakfast in the morning.
This daylight savings morning, all of us enter the foyer a little sleep deprived. In their graciousness, staff have opened the morning food bar early, and our tired faces project our gratitude. Outside the rain pours, the Frazier Valley winds blow, and early winter has made an appearance here.
Despite the gloom, I shuffle to a table by the window and enjoy watching the arrival of fellow sojourners as they wander through, some in slippers, some with dogs, and all slightly tousled, just as I am. Beauty routines do not take precedent over coffee.
I notice one older, worn woman come through the lobby from an outside door to get a coffee refill in a porcelain cup, unlike most of us using disposables. She carries the coffee outside, I assume so she can partake in a cigarette, and I go about my work of planning the day.
She comes in several times, interacting with staff to get more coffee and a few breakfast items. She seems to be known in this hotel, and the front desk clerk’s voice is warm and friendly, as it has been every single day I have been here to every single person she comes in contact with.
Taking a break from my meal and thinking about my circumstance, I realize the woman with the coffee is still on the other side of the glass from where I sit. Along with the cup of coffee, her table is filled with boxes of cereal and cartons of milk. Next to her is a large bag filled to overflowing with more cereal and milk.
And yes, she is having a smoke.
I do not know her story. I suppose the possibilities are endless. Maybe she is homeless. Maybe she has pets. Maybe hungry children await still sleepy from a time change and resting in a hotel room. I will never know.
And ultimately it does not matter, because the encounter is not about her.
Years of practice have given me better listening, and it is very clear: The Spirit did not give me an assignment today, other than to just observe and wonder and pray.
But I do know this.
Whatever her circumstance, the front desk angel does not treat her any differently than the rest of us. She observes the trickle of cereal and milk out the door and simple smiles. She greets her with a friendly voice and smile, just like the rest of us. No judgement. No harsh criticism.
Just simple grace.
And the only action required of me this morning is simply to pass it on.