Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Coffee for the Scrubman?

From my kitchen I can hear his argumentative voice echoing through the stairwell. Phoning a friend? Venting to a coworker? Times are hard. People don't pay what's fair. He has to working extra to make ends meet. He scrubs and complains, tossing in a few curse words.

And his loud frustration might wake a napping Pippin. Should I interrupt his rant to ask him to quiet down a bit? Probably not.

I've been missing the other, older workmen. I'd started to think of them as 'ours' during the weeks that they were in and out, chatting with the awestruck Pippin as they painted and operated the machines outside. It felt like having uncles around when they offered to help me haul the buggy downstairs or complimented my coffee. Their singing (yodeling?) made me smile. But this new guy, with the loud angry voice. Who's to say he wouldn't pause talking on the phone long enough to cuss me out or give me the finger? I'll just ignore him and hope Pippin sleeps through the noise.

And then I have a thought.

Maybe I should offer the Scrubman coffee?

No, probably not a good idea. I've never met him. He's not friendly like the other workmen. He sounds rude and aggressive. He doesn't deserve a coffee.

But maybe he would like a coffee. Maybe he needs some friendliness even more than the other workmen.

I tidy my kitchen (procrastinating?) before deciding to risk it. My mobile phone is in my pocket for backup just in case anything happens. This is urban Rotterdam, after all. Better safe than sorry.

My front door scrapes over the welcome mat. The Scrubman balances in the air, at his work, no safety harness. I'd guess he's in his 20's. Sturdy work boots and dirty work clothes and a baseball cap. He looks over when I ask if he'd like coffee. Or if his colleague would.

"Nee, dank je. No thanks, we're finishing up here and then headed home. But, hey, tof," - and here he gives me a thumbs up. "Cool."

"Well, thank you for all this," I smile. He nods, proud of his work. "Yeah, het zag er niet uit, hé ? It wasn't a sight to see, was it?" Our dingy, battered walls and grimy windows are starting to look respectable again, when I glance around.

"It's much better now. And we can't reach those areas you're working, so thanks again."
"Sure, no problem. And thanks about the coffee." He gives me another thumbs up and I retreat into my house.

A story tickles at the back of my mind. Why does this situation seem familiar? Then I remember, and go Google it. I'm bad at remembering dates, directions, and birthdays, but fortunately stories stick in my brain. Apparently this one is found in both the historical accounts of Matthew and Luke, which means both of the authors thought it was important to include.

In this discussion, Jesus is talking to his friends about deservingness. 2,000+ years later, we humans tend to get fixated on that sort of thing. Even if it's just a cup of coffee at stake.

“This is what God does. He gives his best—the sun to warm and the rain to nourish—to everyone, regardless: the good and bad, the nice and nasty. If all you do is love the lovable, do you expect a bonus? Anybody can do that. If you simply say hello to those who greet you, do you expect a medal? Any run-of-the-mill sinner does that. In a word, what I’m saying is, Grow up. You’re kingdom subjects. Now live like it. Live out your God-created identity. Live generously and graciously toward others, the way God lives toward you.”

-Matthew 5:46-48 (The Message Translation)