Small blessings through chance encounters

It was a rough morning. I’m exhausted from lack of sleep due to an incessant cough, and I almost feel like I’ve picked up yet a new bug. It’s cloudy, humid and generally gross outside.

Starbucks coffee was a necessity this morning. For some reason, I planned in advance to go inside the store rather than hit the drive-thru window. When I got there, the drive-thru was closed for some reason anyway.

There was one spot open across the street from the store, and another person was pulling out right in front of the store. I took the spot across the street thinking I’d leave the closer spot for the person coming behind me.

Well, the person in the vehicle behind me did pull into that spot, and when I got out of my car, I noticed he had a Vietnam veterans license plate.

My husband is an Army veteran, and I’ve noticed since we’ve been together how he always makes an effort to speak to other veterans, particularly those of older wars. So, upon seeing this tag, I thought I might go in, strike up a conversation, and offer to buy the man’s coffee.

He was an older gentleman wearing a golf shirt and pants, windbreaker and a baseball cap. The line was long since the drive-thru window was closed, and I introduced myself. His name is Mike. I told him I’d be honored to buy his coffee that morning.

He smiled and very politely declined, but we got to talking. I told him about my husband, and he shared how when he got back from Vietnam that he and his buddies never wore their uniforms out in public because of the mistreatment they received. He told me how young people would throw fake blood at those in uniform and scream that they were “baby killers.”

He told me about a book he’d just finished reading last night called “Rolling Thunder.” It’s a historical fiction about the Air Force during Vietnam. I already added it to my list of books to read in Good Reads.

Even though the man is married and seems to be doing well, it broke my heart to hear of his treatment years ago.

I understand times were different, but I will never understand treating someone with such malice and hatred, particularly someone who was just doing the duty he took an oath to do.

The barista at Starbucks told me he comes in to that store from time to time, sometimes with his wife. I sincerely hope to run into them more often. Because while my offer to buy him a coffee was simple, yet heartfelt, it’s nothing compared to the sacrifices made by he and other veterans, and I could never repay what he lost.

I am grateful today that God directed my thoughts and my path to meet this kind man and remind me of the blessings I have on a morning when I could easily have just kept feeling sorry for myself!

Here’s to Mike and all our veterans. If you see one, offer to buy them a coffee or even just say hello. You may be surprised at what you gain from a chance encounter.