The car hop at Sonic, Mario, and I are close. (I'm there every morning.) He generally greets me with a gregarious smile, advertises the extra lime he put in my soda, and then tells me I look nice. I have teased Joey that I shouldn't have to go to Sonic to get a compliment. True to Joey form, he would often respond, "Throw at dollar at me and I'll tell ya you look good!" Mario knows my car; he knows my friends' cars; he knows my son's car; he knew Taylor's car; he knows when my assistant comes because I need to hold another styrofoam cup. He knew Taylor, and he knew she loved a good Dr. Pepper.
Mario met me today like every day - eager to bring me the styrofoam cup that calms my mind, gives my hands something to hold, and holds the liquid that allows my mind to pierce the morning fog. When he arrived at the car, he handed me my soda and asked if he could give me a hug. Taking my seatbelt off, I opened the door and allowed his arms to wrap me up.. This sweet man hugged my neck and said these words,
"I see your sweet daughter in you every morning you pull into the stall. She is with you. We all miss her, Lisa."
When I question myself, or my ability to believe, or to hope, our God always answers me; he always answers me. Sometimes his answer is orchestrated and complicated-others, it is most humble, simple.
I didn't get to work as early as I had intended. The make-up I had really tried to put on my face was largely gone; its remnants coloring the white sonic napkins that accompanied my breakfast. I tried and I will try again, but I can't stand the platitudes about letting go of the past for something better. I resent the pithy remarks on social media that have not one clear idea where losing a child leaves you. Nonetheless, Mario's hug today created Matthew 28:20 for me -
"I am with you always."
I made a note last week about "investing in people". I learned something from Mario today. He is only responsible for bringing me a perfect diet coke each morning before 8am, with the best ice, a red straw and styrofoam cup that will not sweat - but he accepted; no, he accepts responsibility for much more than that. I could be a little more like Mario, for my girl, for a God that does love me even in this place he left me.
So if you frequent the Sonic on 71st street just west of Mingo, you might tell Mario he's more than a darn good thing, he's great man- and he lights the world one perfect sonic drink at a time.