(Note from the Matthew Kohrell the author- If you see a name highlighted in blue, it means that person is introduced in an earlier story. You can click on the name to bring up that story to know more about that character)
Early morning was Billy’s favorite time of the day because he could go have a cup of coffee and do his crossword puzzle. It got him out of his house and gave him a brief respite from feeling lonely in an empty house. It gave him time to not dwell on being retired and feeling like he had no purpose other than to look at everything in his house that reminded him of his beloved wife Claire. She had died the year before in an auto accident when that drunk driver hit them. Billy did his best to hide that emptiness from others with his quick wit, impish grin, and a look in his eyes that said, ‘I am up to something’.
As with any retired teacher, he thought about his former students and struggle with loss of identity. No one called him teacher anymore. Walking the halls of the high school interacting with students along the way seemed like a distant memory now. But it was time to go for coffee. He grabbed his newspaper muttering to himself, “everything is online now, but there is nothing like waking up to get my newspaper from the front porch, the good old days.”
Jessica had just finished setting out the coffee urns on the coffee counter when Cindy arrived. It might seem a small thing to others, but it meant the world to Jessica, with everything she had overcome, that Cindy trusted her to open the shop in the mornings and come in to get things ready. “Good morning Cindy. Coffee is ready for you if you need one,” Jessica greeted Cindy with a smile when she saw Cindy enter.
“Good morning kiddo. How are you this morning.” CIndy replied.
“I am okay…..” Jessica managed to half whisper.
Recognizing that look on her face and tone in her voice, Cindy knew something was on Jessica’s mind. “Okay kiddo, what’s up. I know something is bothering you.”
Jessica knowing she couldn’t hide things from Cindy admitted, “Well, it’s just,… well you know I have been helping with the youth group?”
Cindy stopped and looked Jessica in the eyes, “Yes, what about it? Is there a problem?”
“Well not with the group, but I feel like a phony.” Jessica confided.
“Why do you feel like a phony?” Cindy wasn’t going to let go of it.
“Well, you see, I don’t know how to say it.” Jessica was looking down at the floor as she spoke.
Her maternal feelings were coming out now so Cindy walked over and put her hand under Jessica’s chin lifting her head up, “Remember what we talked about Jessica. You are a child of God, a daughter of the most high God. Don’t look down and away. Tell me what it is.”
It was another time of trying to cope with her past, so with her eyes watering up, Jessica confessed, “Cindy with everything that happened to me, I never graduated from high school. I feel like a phony trying to help the kids in youth group.”
Cindy responded like she always did by giving her a hug and reassured her, “It is your faith in Jesus that is the example Jessica. We can figure out the high school thing later but for now we need to open up. Can you unlock the door?”
“Sure thing,” Jessica quickly went to the door and to no surprise there was Billy standing there waiting with his newspaper under his arm. Jessica unlocked the door.
“Good morning Billy. Cup of coffee again?” Jessica greeted Billy with a shy smile.
“Top of the morning to you Jess.” Billy replied. Being the grandson of Irish immigrants, he loved to try to sound Irish. “Yes ma’am a cup of Joe. Best way to start the day.”
Feeling she could maybe speak with the older man, Jessica joked, “Hey Billy, you know there are a lot more crosswords online than in the newspaper.”
Billy quipped back with a laugh, “No ma’am. Don’t start on me like Megan. I don’t need online. There is nothing as good as waking up to the newspaper on my front porch. The smell of it, the feel of it in my hands, and the pleasant surprise the delivery boy got it on the porch and not in my bushes. Don’t try to get me online.” Billy laughed some more.
Billy got his cup of coffee and sat down. As soon as he sat down, another older man walked in and right over to Billy. “Mind if I join you? I see you have the paper too. Maybe we can help each other with the crossword.” he asked.
Billy looked up at the man, “I never need help, but you can have a seat and let me know if you get stuck my good fellow.”
They sat there for a while doing the crossword until the man cleared his throat in the way it lets people know one is about to speak, “So my name is Zech, what is your name?”
Billy stuck out his hand, “The name is Billy my good fellow. So are you from around here?”
“Just visiting for this morning. I have quite a ways to travel after our coffee,” Zech explained.
“So how do you spell your name? It is a little different sound than I am used to for Zach.” Billy was curious.
“Actually my name is Zechariah, but I use Zech, Z-E-C-H, for short.” Zech explained.
“Zechariah? Sounds like a name from the bible.” Billy mused.
“Exactly where I got the name. So what do you do for work?” Zech inquired.
“Don’t work anymore. Retired teacher and currently professional coffee drinker and crossword puzzler, but of course, not for pay.” Billy grinned as he answered.
“Do you think there is more to life than drinking coffee and doing crosswords?” Zech asked.
“Whoa now my good fellow. We barely just met. Don’t go trying to push me like others do.” Billy still grinning tried to put Zech in his place.
Zech quickly replied, “Billy there isn’t much time until the other regulars come, so I will get right to the point. The way you like it from what I understand. God sent me here to talk with you to tell you that you still have a purpose in life. It is time to start.”
That got Billy’s attention, “What do you mean God sent you? No tricks now. Talk straight.”
“I know a lot about you Billy. I know that you miss the school and the students. I know that you miss everything about being a teacher. I also know that you feel life has passed you by and you feel lonely. Oh, and one more thing, I know that you didn’t pay enough attention to Simon when he talked with you and Megan a few days ago.” Zech laid it on the line.
“You seem to know a lot about me..” Billy gruffly retorted.
“We both know the things I just shared, but there is one thing I know that you need to know.” Zech calmly replied.
“Okay, out with it then. That Simon fella told me someone else would come. Out with it fella.” Billy backed down.
‘Billy, Jesus loves you. He still has a plan for you. Life has not passed you by. Your late wife loves Jesus and is with Jesus now as we speak, but you need to let God help you get going again.” Zech encouraged him.
“Well now, that is quite a message. But listen now my good fella, I am no spring chicken. How is it that a 65 year old man is supposed to get going again?” Billy asked thinking that would stump this intruder on his morning coffee.
Zech not being thrown off was ready, “I speak from personal experience Billy and I was just as skeptical as you are now. When I was living on earth and was older, an angel once came to me to tell me my wife Elizabeth and I would have a baby. I didn’t believe him or course, but we did end up having a son. Maybe you heard of John the Baptist.”
Billy replied, “Oh, my. So God sent the father of John the Baptist to me. Now I have seen it all.” Billy laughed at that one.
“Don’t take this moment lightly Billy,” Zech admonished. “I scoffed and ended up not being to talk until the baby was born because of it. You have a purpose Billy. You will have a practical way to show the love of Jesus, but first you need to come back to Jesus. It isn’t too late Billy. If God could work through me and my wife for us to become parents for the first time at an age people can’t, then God can work through you.”
Billy eyes were wide open now, “I am sorry my friend. So tell me, what is this purpose?”
Zech looked Billy square in the eyes, “It is right under your nose here in the coffee shop. Someone needs your help, patience and understanding. It will start there. You will have the opportunity to help someone who will go on to have a wonderful future serving God, but she can’t see it yet. She needs someone who can believe in her until she can believe in herself. She has no father, no family. You will discover more about why. Will you help her?”
Billy was moved as he thought of young women in difficult circumstances. It made him think of his daughter living in Europe teaching. His paternal instincts were coming to the surface, “Of course I will. Who is she?”
Zech smiled recognizing the change in Billy, “She is about to come over here. Be gentle with her. To her this is one of the hardest things she has had to do since she came to this town. It is time for me to go, but remember, we love because Jesus first loved us. You need to come back to Jesus too.”
Billy was tearing up a bit now, “Of course. It is time for me to get back to church. It is just hard to go without Claire.” Billy wiped his eyes and then realized Zech was gone. He snapped to when Jessica came to his table.
“Billy, Cindy told me you were a high school teacher,” Jessica shyly tried to start a conversation.
“Oh, yes, I was. Why do you ask Jessica?” Billy gently responded.
“Well, you see. I am not sure how to say this. I never had a chance to go to high school. I don’t want to say why.” Jessica half in tears trying to be strong.
Billy knew this is what Zech was telling him about. “Jessica, I would be happy to help you. I’ll tell you what. I’ll come back here this afternoon and we can talk about his here. I can help you study when you are off work and we can study right here.”
“Thank you Billy, Thank you!!!” Jessica surprised both Billy and herself with the spontaneous hug she gave him.
Written by Matthew Kohrell
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