Duke and I settled in at our table and ordered a pitcher of beer. At the other end of the room, there was a party of about 15 consisting of two adult men and one adult woman and a flock of kids of a wide range of sizes, ages and colors. Their table was crowded with pizzas and pitchers of soda pop.
After a little while, the two adult men and the oldest boy approached our table. “Excuse me,” one of the men said. “Are you two related?”
I knew what that was all about. They assumed Duke was my son. I get that a lot. People see a crippled old man like me out and about in public and their first conclusion is that my companion/assistant must be my nursemaid. But Duke sure didn’t look the part. He wasn’t dressed like a nursemaid and he was holding up my stein so I could drink beer through a straw. Nursemaid’s don’t do stuff like that. So once the possibility of nursemaid was ruled out, the next possible conclusion was that my companion/assistant must be my offspring. Who would hang out with and feed an old cripple just for fun?
“No,” I said. “We’re just friends.”
And then the man said, “Well we just wanted to let you know that Jesus loves you.”
Oh God! I get that a lot, too, when I’m out and about in public. I find it insulting because I assume the reason that person is singling me out to receive extra love from Jesus is because I’m crippled and I look sad and bedraggled to them and they think they’re making my day.
And then the man said, “And we’re picking up your tab.”
Duke looked at me and I looked at him. Wow! Free beer! There are fewer greater gifts in life! But I still felt a bit insulted. Strangers often pick up my tab, too, and when they do I assume they’re only doing it because I’m crippled and I look sad and bedraggled to them and they think they’re making my day. I always feel like I should reject their generosity and take advantage of this teachable moment.
But this was different. Like I said, I get that Jesus loves you stuff all the time, but no one ever backed it up with free beer. I also had an obligation to Duke in this situation. After all, this was his free beer, too. If I was going to refuse it, I needed a damn good rationale.
So Duke and I just said thank you. The Christians smiled satisfied smiles and returned to their table.
Duke clinked his stein against mine. “You’re a good wingman,” he said.
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