As far back as I can remember, I wished for a sister. While listening to the radio one night during my early teens, I heard an ad for Big Brothers and Big Sisters and was certain it was God’s voice speaking directly to me. Soon I was connected with an 8 year old freckle-face young girl named Cee Cee who lived in the orphanage near my high school. I spent every Tuesday afternoon with her, and holidays at my home where she shared the extra bed in my room. We played together, shared stories and told secrets late into the night like real sisters. Cee Cee was an answered prayer.
Although living at a distance from each other, Cee Cee and I have stayed connected for over fifty years and always spend a day together every summer. Her life has been one of constant struggle to make ends meet; yet what little Cee Cee has she generously shares with others. Over the years, she opened her heart and her home as a place of refuge for many who found comfort and safety from the violence in her neighborhood.
Yesterday we sat in her living room looking at photos of her grandchildren and catching up before going out for lunch. Cee Cee asked if we could go to a restaurant with table cloths. So off we went to an Italian café with red checkered cloths and a vase of flowers on every table.
Cee Cee’s manner is a bit rough and her husky, hardy voice was loud as we entered the restaurant. She was all dressed up for lunch wearing a shirt that said Eat It spelled out in giant colored sequins across her back. Looking at Cee Cee with disapproval, the hostess coldly escorted us to an out-of-the-way table in the back. As we walked through the restaurant it seemed like all of the diners stopped talking, silverware suspended in mid air, and a silence descended on the place. With her boisterous intonation, Cee Cee said, “Everybody’s looking at us!” She was right. They were, and anger bubbled up inside me.
But our waitress was an entirely different story from the frozen reception we got from everybody else. She affectionately patted Cee Cee’s shoulder, called her Sweetheart and Honey and kept bringing refills of the lemonade she had ordered. Cee Cee’s seafood fettuccini arrived on a huge plate with Italian bread. When it was time to leave, the waitress kindly packed up extra bread, more fettuccini for Cee Cee to take home and threw in a slice of chocolate pie as well. When we got into the car Cee Cee remarked, “That lady treated me like I am somebody.”
“That lady” was God wearing an apron, and I, a witness to a moment of Grace.