Two meals from the last two days of the voyage to California stand out. A dinner, and lunch the next day. They stand out less because of the food (which indeed was excellent) or because of the hospitality (which was warm and genuine) than because of the waiter. At dinner on the first night in the Coachella Valley, we got into conversation with our waiter. He was efficient, friendly, and knowledgable as to his work at the Bella Vita. But, as is blessedly also the case when we can allow ourselves to open up and see it, he was also a real human being. In conversation during one of his visits to our table late in the meal, he shared with us that he works two restaurant jobs, almost constantly. He does so for one reason: he is saving money for his childrens' college education. He came from Mexico to the USA and has worked to make a life here, not first of all for himself, but first of all for the next generation.
Though the backgrounds are different, I looked into his eyes and listened to his voice and I saw and heard my father, born in this nation after his parents arrived from Ireland, a man who worked most of the daylight and many evening hours for decades for the love of his family. We are. We are. We are all the same. There is, in the end, never, a them and us. When we seem to see that division, let us shake our heads and hearts free of that devilish delusion and see one another clearly, all made in the image and likeness of God. It is an image that remains whatever be the story of a given life. It is a likeness that is burnished and shines over the lifetimes of those who choose to live for others, to live for love.
The next day, Sunday, after church, we sought out a place for a brunch/lunch. I remembered a place from a prior visit as providing good, fresh, healthy fare. We arrived and got settled, met our waitress and placed our order. Then someone stopped at the table and said happily, "Good afternoon!" I looked up into the face of our waiter from the evening before. Of all the (very many) eateries in the Coachella Valley we had found our way to the second of the two in which he works. I asked him if he had any time off this coming week. He said he would have Sunday afternoon and Monday morning at home. For a total of six days he would be standing next to tables like that one, inquiring what might be provided for the nourishment of those guests. And in the vital background, he does so to provide nourishment of body and mind and heart, now and into the future, for his children. I pray they will grow to know, if they do not already, the wonder they have been given in their father, and I suspect, their mother as well.
I do not know whether, in his constant efforts, this new friend ever finds his way to church to praise God with community. I hope he does. But whether or not he does, here is another walking embodiment of sanctity. God works and walks and converses among us every day. We have only to listen and to see to know this is true.