I took the photo because of a memory. Fourteen months ago we sat here at the outside corner of a small restaurant in Sausalito. My son, his wife, their Ukranian exchange student and my granddaughter huddled with Bill and me as the wind shifted directions, blowing cool off the bay. Five year old Ciara, a kinetic creature, sat uncommonly still as she soaked up the sights. She was a long way from Tuscaloosa. The food arrived and talk subsided a bit. As I tucked into my gnocchi, I glanced at a group of twenty-somethings who crossed the street toward us. Most were Asian. All were laughing. Ciara watched as they drew near us. In a moment stripped of all vanity, as pure as any I've seen in her young life, she waved her hand and said with utter delight, "Hello, California people!" I will treasure that moment forever and speak of it a bit too often. But it was special, see? Wise. A double helping of joy, of love.
Just after I took this shot yesterday, a couple sat down beside us. With the respect we afford our neighbors in tight spaces, I didn't stare. But I recall a drift of Rastafarian hair and baggy shorts as the tall, thirty-ish man passed my chair. The woman was slight. Sated by the breakfast, as we lingered over coffee in the warm silence of familiarity, the soft, thoughtful voice of the raggedy young man behind me drifted my way. In one of those "and then he said" moments, I could hear nothing else. A teacher, he related a conversation he'd had with a colleague. "Religion is a personal choice, a way to relate, to order. But when it becomes dogmatic..." He paused and I thought, 'Don't stop there.'
He continued, simply, as unconscious of self as Ciara had been that night in March 2014. "I told him that I love the walk of Jesus. He was about love for all people, not some select few." After a pause, he went on. "If religion keeps us from loving another person, Jesus isn't present. It's not enough to say the words 'I love you but...'. That's equivocation." He repeated, "if religion comes between me and another, if it keeps me from caring for, loving, reaching out to others, then Jesus is no where to be found."
We left after this. I fought the urge to walk over, confess to deeply conscious eavesdropping, and thank the man for the best sermon I've heard in a long time. But I would've probably ended up hugging him and this was no Kumbaya moment. I'd been present once again for a proclamation from the seat of wisdom at a little cafe in Sausalito. Love. Double and triple helpings heaped upon all. May the peace that passes all understanding be with us. Before we blow this good earth - and all who call it home - to bits. Amen.