In a café by the sea, a stranger takes a table
Next to a family of three, small plates before them,
Olives and cheeses and tastes and joy.
And a girl in pink overalls slides from her seat
And hops on a bar stool, swings her legs round,
And round and round, to her mother’s delight.
With eyes like stars, a waitress brings our stranger
A steaming plate of artichoke hearts and potatoes;
Each heart is a prayer of thanksgiving,
Smothered in warm cheese and blessing,
And our stranger is not so strange here,
In this café by the sea, in Thessaloniki.
On the street, so many colors, so many songs,
So many souls in the Aegean breeze:
A quiet group keeps vigil for Syria and her pain;
A bearded priest holds a child’s tiny hand, walking;
A teenager pesters lovers to look now at sunglasses,
Though the sun has set and darkness calls.
Within my heart are other hearts:
My family on another coast, and the little one here,
Watching a girl swing round a bar stool one more time;
The broken hearts of children far away, battered by war,
And the singing hearts of monks in morning prayer;
And artichokes, o sweet communion,
Served warm by a waitress
With eyes like stars and a priestly spirit.
The waitress who teaches me to say, Thank you!
4 May 2014Thessaloniki, Greece:
With thanks to the waitress at Myrsini who reminded me how to say 'thank you'--"EF-HA-RIS-TO!" I remember just enough of the Ancient Greek I took in seminary: just enough to recognize in "EF-HA-RIS-TO" the ancient word for 'thanksgiving' and the idea conjured by the best in ministry and faith: EUCHARIST!