I have made it a point in my busy travel season to use my time well. This means that if I have downtime between high school visits, I find a coffee shop to settle in and work on out-of-office stuff and organizing the information I am gathering from students and schools.
As intentional as I am on trying to use my time well, I do know that my life holds many interesting adventures and experiences and my time in the coffee shops have been no exception.
As an older man sat down with me (which is becoming quite common), he began to tell me about the recent passing of his wife. I could hear the sound of heartbreak in his words. The way they seemed to not easily slide off of his tongue was quite painful for me to witness.
He spoke of life adventures in the Peace Corp and how he never believed he would settle down based off how busy his life seemed to be. Nonetheless, he found his match and now that she is gone, he feels quite lost.
He said the house-work never seems to get done. As much as he does to keep his two-story house clean, there is always more to do. He went on to tell me about how he often drives from the busyness of the city to Delaware on weekends to get away. It isn’t that he does not like the area that he lives, it is just that his house seems quite empty and much too big for just him. However, he cannot fathom selling a house that became a home for he and his wife and children.
I must have looked like I was deep in thought about what he was sharing with me, because he asked if I have been hurt in love. I responded that I was uncertain if I have ever experienced the type of love he told me about. He grinned a half-hearted grin and responded, “If you are hurt in love, you hurt.”
At this point, my soul began to ache. I could tell that he was hurting. This old man had so many great stories, but it seemed that his happiness was absent. He told me that he had hurt a few women in love in his early years, but he had never been hurt until the woman that he married passed away suddenly. There are different types of hurt. Some are intentional, many are not. He had never meant to hurt anyone, but knew he had. He knew he broke a few hearts, he said with a chuckle, but the aching you have when you know you will never see the love of your life again is quite debilitating.
I took a sip of my coffee with no words of comfort to offer other than my apologies for his hardships. In sincerity, he stated that sitting alone in a coffee shop is not as fulfilling as sitting with someone that makes your heart happy.
Looking at the time, I knew it was approaching my next high school visit and that I needed to part ways from this gentleman that was challenging my thoughts on love and life and companionship.
I thanked him for sitting with me and for sharing his wisdom and story with me. As I walked away, I realized that I hurt. I hurt in my heart and in my stomach. It is interesting how someone else’s hurt can be contagious. I prayed that the hurt I was feeling took part of his hurt away. I hoped his pain was lightened in some ways. Although I realize he has a difficult road to travel, I could tell he needed to tell his story. He needed to share the memories with someone, even if they had not lived them.
Sometimes all we need is someone to listen. We need someone to care. We need to relive the good times through memories so they do not become absent like the love we may have lost. It is true, love can cause pain, but listening to this man’s story, the pure love he spoke of, may be worth hurting for. The words, again, that he spoke will stick with me, “If you are hurt in love, you hurt.”