HomedotMagisReflectionsCoffee Shop Encounter

Coffee Shop Encounter

coffee cupsMary and I were talking at the coffee shop about a ministry we lead. The tables were close together, but I forgot that as I was engrossed in conversation. We didn’t see the professionally dressed man at the table next to us, laptop open, until we noticed that he was crying.

“God bless you!” he said emotionally when we made eye contact. “Obviously, you’re women of faith. I’m inspired.”

“Are you eavesdropping on us?” I said jovially.

“I’m a believer myself, and I’ve been going through some hard times.”

“Do you have a church community to support you?”

“Not at the moment,” he said, wiping his eyes with a finger.

“Come to St. Francis Catholic Church, across from Sutter’s Fort! Easy to find and it’s very inclusive.” Sometimes I can be very blatant in my love for our community.

“Thank you!” he said. “I’ve been going through some rough stuff. I just spent a week in jail for domestic violence.”

I found myself at a mental crossroads. I had one hour booked outside my office for this meeting with Mary, and if I made time to listen to this man, I would add stress to an already overbooked day. Could I spare the time? Not really.

But deep inside, I recognized that I couldn’t ignore him either. I pushed our small table up to his and scooted my chair over too. So did Mary.

What is my call each and every day? Am I not called to find God in all circumstances, however unexpected? How can I live truly, deeply present to the immediate moment and ignore a man crying at the table next to me?We heard about drugs, Bible college, his R&B group, counseling, and his classes for domestic offenders. It wasn’t our place to judge, as Pope Francis says. Mary, a retired counselor, was a great listener.

“I need our family to be healed,” the man said.

“Would you like us to pray with you?” I asked, knowing that time was evaporating.

“Yes,” he said.

I reached for his hands and Mary’s. Right there in the middle of the coffee shop.

We prayed, and afterwards, he thanked us. I scooted our table back to its original position. He was crying again. I suppose they were tears of gratitude.

Mary and I finished our conversation and rose to leave. Mary hugged the man; I asked his wife’s and daughter’s names and promised to pray.

As Mary and I left, we both felt stunned. Overcome. Profoundly aware that we had just experienced a sacred moment in an unexpected place.

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Loretta Pehanich
Loretta Pehanich
Loretta Pehanich is a Catholic freelance writer and the author of 2022: A Book of Grace-Filled Days, Women in Conversation: Stand Up!, and Fleeting Moments: Praying When You Are Too Busy. A spiritual director since 2012, Loretta is trained in giving the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius. Her involvement in ministry and parish life includes 20 years in small faith-sharing groups and Christian Life Community. Loretta gives retreats and presentations on prayer and women’s spirituality and is commissioned as an extraordinary minister of the Eucharist. She and her husband Steve have four children and 10 grandchildren.


  1. Loretta,
    Two weeks ago a friend – MY Mary – died. Too young. And now today I somehow fell upon your writing. Countless memories of cherished times with this friend of mine revolve around coffee – shared during or after a workday together.
    Especially today – on all Saints day – I shall tie together, with a big bow, your and Mary’s blessed coffee encounter and all my coffees with Donna – and keep my eyes open to opportunities to slow down, and listen, as my dear friend always did, far better than I.

    Thank you and Mary!

  2. I found myself frustrated, waiting at the deli counter to get my husband’s favorite lunch meat (for his birthday sandwich) when your reflection popped into my heart. Thank you, Loretta, for your insight. Your writings bless me.

  3. While reading an article by Michael Brown on Spirit Daily, I came across a little prayer. Couldn’t tell you what the article was about … however … the little prayer seeped into my soul : “Lord, today let me make a difference for you that is utterly disproportionate to who I am”. You understand well what a humbling experience it is to be an instrument of God’s Love.

  4. I love how you took the time to be present with this man who needed you DESPITE your busy, hectic day. I like the way you intertwined the story with the way you had your eye on the clock, too. Who hasn’t done that or felt like that when confronted with an unexpected change in the schedule, especially one like this that would have been so easy to ignore. You did what God asked of you when He called you. Excellent anecdote for the rest of us to consider when God calls to US unexpectedly.

  5. Happens all the time. Gautma said: “Have no expectations and the whole world is yours.” You just have to be open to life and G-d will do the rest. Read about Moshhe and the bush: He said “I must go back and take a closer look.” Maybe hundreds, even thousands passed by but G-d spoke to the man who went back for a closer look, WHICH IS EXACTLY WHAT YOU DID. You put aside your agenda and followed the one that G-d laid out for you.

  6. You were the face of God for him. I’m sure you realize what a blessing you were to this man in his hour of need. Praise God for being there for him. thank you for sharing this beautiful story with us. We never know when we maybe called to witness to Gods love for us. May we be. Ready to serve Him when callled!

  7. These encounters are all around us, in the most expected and unexpected places. We must stay open and receptive and responsive to them at all times. You blessed that man that day and received a blessing in return.

    • The difficult thing is stopping when I have a full agenda. My plans get in the way of God moments.
      God is blessing us, as you say, with enounters like these every day.

  8. I’ve just had an equivalent encounter at the local rubbish tip when disposing of garden waste! Truly, God in all things and places. And if as a result the ironing doesn’t get done, then so be it! 🙂

    • I’d love to hear more! We encourage one another when we share the stories of finding Christ in such unexpected places.

      • All my Christian life I’ve been told that I need to live “for” Christ. Now I just read in your comment about living “with” Christ. I think that’s what my Spiritual Director has gently been guiding me toward for a year. Thank you, Lord, for opening my eyes through so many of your children.

  9. I really appreciate your comment: “Am I not called to find God in all circumstances, however unexpected?” Each day as disciples of Jesus ( and that is anyone that shares in the following Jesus) we need to pray that we may embody His Gospel in all we do and say.

  10. Thank you for reminding us how much we have to offer. Sometimes it doesn’t seem enough but in your experience I’m sure that man got what he needed in that moment. I hope someone like that man comes into my experience today and I don’t miss the opportunity

    • Robyn, I’m sure someone did come into your experience today.
      I pray for the grace to be able to step out again myself.

  11. What a gift to that gentleman and yet a marvellous gift to you and Mary as well! The result of being open to God’s leading on the part of each of you. Blessings.


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