I Miss Them

Awhile back I wrote about a fellow I used to see on the Katy trail in the early morning. When I didn’t see him during Covid, I wondered what might have happened to him. Then he was back.
    But now he’s gone. He told me beforehand: he has moved to a home in the country. It was a good move.
    More recently, there was this couple. They are both retirement age, often walking early, even in the dark, with a large dog. The first time we talked was in May last year. They saw me with a Starbucks cup: it was the first morning our Starbucks was open again, and as it happened I had been led there either by dead reckoning or divine push, and indeed my cup was the first cup they served. You couldn’t stay, you had to order with the app, they brought it to you—but it was there.
    So I passed them, a couple with a dog that I had often seen, but we had never talked more than the passing Hi. “Starbucks is open?” they asked.
    Over the months we talked a little, sometimes, as the restrictions eased, in the Starbucks itself. He learned I was a priest. I learned he had been in the trucking business. Then one morning, not that long ago, he said they were going to Arizona. I said I hoped they enjoyed the visit. But no, the moving truck was coming.
    I miss them; there is now another little hole in my mornings.
    There was another fellow, a few years ago. His walk overlapped my run, and it ended at the Starbucks, where he sat for awhile. I hadn’t seen him for years, wasn’t sure I remembered his name correctly, wondered the same questions. Did he get through Covid? Had he moved?
    A few weeks ago he saw me in another coffee shop—Drip, a local place—and came over to say hi to me. It took me a minute to put the pieces together. He was healthy, doing well.
    I still don’t see him in the mornings, but it’s nice to know he’s around.
    Friendship is the most important thing in life. Which is why it hurts a bit not to be able to be friends with more people. There aren’t very many people that any of us can be friends with in the fullest sense. Friendship takes time.
    And yet, it is wonderful to be able to be friendly with people we meet. We greet them, we like seeing them, we know a wee bit about their lives. This too is important. I like to quote what Oliver O’Donovan says about “friendliness.” When we are friendly with people we are saying to them, in effect, that although we are not actually friends, if it should turn out in God’s providence (in this life or in the life to come) that we became friends, that would not be a bad thing.
    Out & about. This Sunday, July 11, I am to preach at St. James in Dallas at the morning Eucharists (8am and 10am).
    Still more on Texas. Last week I wrote that the “America” in the final stanza of “America, the Beautiful” is somehow the new Jerusalem; it is obviously not the actual America whose cities are still dimmed by human tears. A friend wrote in response:”If indeed somehow Texas is in the New Jerusalem, does that mean God will have messed with Texas?” You can see he’s a good friend. But: “Heaven forbid! I suppose you would say that Texas will finally truly be Texas, not so much messed with but realized.” Yes! He goes on, however: “And surely Austin will be kept weird, but a better sort of weird. That is, truly weird—for particular particulars, if they be particular, can’t be everywhere.” He concludes that “Don’t mess with Texas” and “Keep Austin weird” are prophetic: “in the new creation, Texas will be at its most unmessed-with and Austin will be at its weirdest.”
    At least he didn’t say that Austin will be at “his” weirdest. But who knows?

The Rev. Canon Dr. Victor Lee Austin is the Theologian-in-Residence for the diocese and is the author of several books including, "Losing Susan: Brain Disease, the Priest's Wife, and the God who Gives and Takes Away."