The Friend All in My Chili

As I walked into Daybreak this afternoon, he waved me over from his regular seat in the middle of the room.  He was facing the door.  I think he likes to see what is going on, who is coming in and who is leaving.

I walked over and saw that he had a to go plate with his late lunch on his lap.  One glance–French fries and fried chicken livers.  Ahem.  It looked good, but I knew better.  I am not a liver fan–any way you prepare it.  But my friend was digging in.  Mr. B put his food down, wiped his hands on his napkin and reached out for a hug.

“How is my friend doing?” he asked.  He loves my Fella.  When we were having the Sunday night suppers, they visited together on a weekly basis.  It’s been a while since they have seen each other.  Mr. B always asks after him.

“Good.  He’s flying today, so he’ll be tired tonight. Long day.  But he’s good.”

“Good, good.  The children okay?”

“Yessir, they are.  I left them with their big sister today.”

He nodded.  “And you?  You look good, you doing all right?”

He’s such a sweet man.  “Well, thank you.  Yessir, I’m doing pretty good.  A little tired, after the dreams I had last night, but I’ll be just fine.”

He nodded again.  “Won’t you break bread with me?” He offered his plate to me.

Bless him.

“No sir, I thank you, but I’m full.  I ate before I left.” I patted my middle to reiterate.  Full.

“Won’t you have at least one bite of chicken liver?  It’s so good.  And I promise I haven’t had my phalanges all in them.”  He chuckled.

It was time to be honest or eat some chicken liver.  The last time I had some I was younger than Cooter–maybe five or six?  I don’t know, but that taste was enough to last me a lifetime.

I told him about my experience as a child and how I am sure I disappointed my Granny, something that never failed to break my heart, by not just gobbling them up.  I just think it’s chalky tasting.

He nodded.  “Well, it is chalky.  But so good.”

Somehow then we got on a conversation about gator tail and the story of when he accidentally brought some home when he was little and had to take it back to the store, so he’s never had any.  (I have–if it’s the light meat, it’s delicious.)  He said he hadn’t thought about that time in a long time.  “Memory’s a funny thing, isn’t it?  It can be good, or it can be bad.  Or it can be both.”  He got a faraway look in his eyes for a moment.

Then he asked me about the dream that had kept me from resting last night.  I told him.  In the dream I was going on a trip that I am going on in real life, but in the dream we were leaving RIGHT THEN and I hadn’t packed or anything.  I was rushing around trying to get it all together and I couldn’t make it happen fast enough.  This was one of those dreams you wake up from and then go right back into.  Yeah.  No restful sleep last night.

It isn’t hard to figure out that I’m anxious about being ready, about being prepared, about it happening without my having everything in order.  Mr. B asked me some questions about my anxiety, and then he did the unexpected.  After he agreed with me about my major concern and said we’d pray together about it, he got in my chili and called me out on a couple of things.

And *sigh* he is probably right.  (And that’s as far as I’m budging, even though I know probably could be eliminated and there’d still be truth in that statement.)

Just like he was last week when he called me out and asked me to look at something in my life with a different lens, from a totally different perspective.  I had never thought about it in the way he was asking me to think about it.  It stretched my brain, but more importantly, it stretched my heart and asked more of me–for me to grow and do more, accept more, love more.

Mr. B is the first person I met the very first time I went to the park for the Sunday night suppers four years ago.  I had prayed on the way up, Please God let me make a difference to someone.  Let me say and do the right things.  And as it turned out, the tables were turned.  Mr. B had a bicycle parked against a tree next to him.  I opened up the conversation asking him about his bike, and it wound up with him saying to me just before we parted, “You are the best Tara there is or ever will be, just as you are.”  I looked puzzled and a bit doubtful I am sure.  I am nowhere near the best I can be nor was I then.  He repeated and clarified, “You are the best Tara; you are the only Tara.”  And he smiled.  Simply put truth in loving words.  That’s Mr. B.

And so our relationship has evolved from that tender moment years ago when I almost cried.  That would have made a lasting impression, huh? The next week he asked me why do folks always point up when they speak of God.  “Isn’t God everywhere?” he asked.  And so, when we speak of God with each other, we make a circle all around us with our pointer fingers.  Phalanges.  😉

This man is a prophet of sorts.  Today it hit me that even though I didn’t like what he was saying, it was the truth and I needed to hear it.  Acquaintances don’t do that for you.  Sometimes even family doesn’t do that for you.  This man must really love me.  And I love him.  I am starting to think God is using him to set me straight.  My friend who has battled alcoholism, who has lived in all different kinds of situations, including the streets, and who had heart surgery in December and was eating a plate of fried chicken livers today–God is using him to call me out and tell me like my Mama used to, “Act like you are somebody.”  I don’t doubt the choice of my friend to say the things I need to hear–after all, God has used some pretty odd ducks to get the message across before, right?  David was hardly a model of upright citizenry, was he?  And yet, truth and love and wisdom and beautiful thoughts came from his heart and mind.  Just as they do from Mr. B’s.

Tonight I’m thankful for this man and the gift of his friendship.  He loves me enough to look me in the eye, tell it like it is, and say to me, “Am I right?  You know I am” or “Are you picking up what I’m laying down?”

Yessir, Mr. B.  I am.  And what you said today reminds me of something else my folks used to say:


Thankful for you Mr. B.

Love to all.

3 thoughts on “The Friend All in My Chili”

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