Starting Point
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Issue Date:  February 4, 2005

Starting Point


Eddy was a friendly, big and simple man. He owned a diner in Fairfield, N.J., that I used to visit a lot. The diner was what is called a railroad car diner. Eddy always gave me a second and even third cup of coffee for free. “No charge there, no charge at all. You just come back real soon,” he would say. And I always did.

I knew he had not had an easy life. But it was a very good one.

He never knew that I knew he sponsored young people from Poland. He got them over here, got places for them to live and jobs, made sure they got to church, put them through school. I do not think he ever married but he sure took care of a lot of kids.

One day I was watching TV. An ad came on for some kind of a cleanser. The ad featured a vaguely familiar diner and suddenly Eddy’s face appeared on the screen, beaming as he wiped the counter with the cleanser. When I saw him again, I told him I saw him on TV and he laughed and said, “You ain’t seen nothin’ yet.” Now the diner was to appear in a film starring Robert De Niro. Indeed, several weeks later, the diner and surrounding area was turned into a scene out of the ’30s. Things soon turned back to normal, and stayed that way for a while, until a wealthy German offered Eddy a lot of money for the diner.

Eddy sold it, and the diner was crated and shipped to Germany. Eddy retired and died a few years later.

Jesus told his disciples to enter the world with no possessions. I took a walk last night and wondered what it means to go into the world with nothing in your pockets, no gold or silver.

There is a lot of goodness in life, a lot of people like Eddy. Maybe something of God is given in and through all those second cups, the kind you can never buy but only receive. And so we come back, come back soon and then again, and we learn that the best things in life are given away.

Fr. James Stephen Behrens is a monk at Monastery of the Holy Spirit, Conyers, Ga.

National Catholic Reporter, February 4, 2005

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