After several days in Amsterdam I had a craving for my daily fruit/vegetable juice and went to my trusty Trip Advisor app to find a juice shop. It was a good distance away, involving taking a tram and walking several blocks in an area I had not yet seen. At first I was hesitant, but decided to go for it. This suburbanite dodged bicycles, motorcycles and people, maneuvered the tram and got the the area of town where the shop should be. Map in hand, I began to look in earnest. It took a long time but I finally found the shop so I went inside and stood in line. The man behind the counter was the owner and seemed to know everyone who came in, preparing their drinks from memory while discussing other topics. It was my turn and I said, “I’ve been looking for you for a long time!” The man locked eyes with me, came around the counter and took my hand. I thought he was going to shake it but instead he massaged it, then went up my arm to the elbow, still massaging. He muttered quietly, “you’ve been looking for a long time, all right. Relax and forgive and forget.”
I laughed nervously and he proceeded to hug me. Close. He held me there until I relaxed. He talked quietly about my energy and massaged my back while holding me. It was powerfully intimate but not in a sexual way. People would come in and out of the small shop, talking to him all the while, making it seem like this was very commonplace. Thoughts were running through my head back and forth between, is this ok? and this is amazing….
He made my drink, he never asked me any questions except about the ingredients and was I feeling better than when I came in? I was. Other people entered the shop and he asked me to stay so he could explain, but when the shop emptied, he just held me. It was so bizarre. And so natural. When I stopped fighting the need to be appropriate I leaned in and allowed myself to feel the love this person was offering. We were not man and woman or even two strangers, we were simply two humans. In a juice shop. In Amsterdam. On a Thursday.
I said to him, “you have a profound gift for loving others.” He looked at me and said, “and so do you.” We talked a little more, he was from Aruba, previously an alcoholic and drug addict who got cleaned up years ago and opened his store to give people whatever they need; some need encouragement, some need a massage, all need love. Now, I don’t want to make too much of this encounter, but I also don’t want to shrug it off because I walked away changed. Changed in the way that you view the world a little differently now. I have rarely experienced pure love in my lifetime, that kind of love that wants nothing in return, that is simply willing to give. I have been writing a blog about three forms of love from the Bible for almost two years, and found something so simple and profound in an unlikely place. For all I know, this guy is half crazy and gets a kick out of seeing what he can get away with, but I don’t think that’s it. To me, this was a powerful example of Jesus’ love for every one of us. What if we leaned towards one another in an effort to connect more on a human level and let go of misconceptions and expectations? I still have so much more to learn.