Donald the distractor.

We were out for lunch. Nancy’s parents, brother, sister-in-law. We were chatting when two people were directed to a table close to ours. One of them, Donald, greeted the people in the kitchen. He greeted us. He sat down.

From two tables away, he made eye contact with Nancy and said, “Where you from?” We told him. “I just got off work,” he said. “Milking. 11 pm am to 11 am.” Nancy said that her family had milk cows years ago, and asked him how many cows they milked. “About a thousand,” Donald answered. Nancy smiled. “We had thirty-five.”

For the rest of the meal, there was a running conversation with Donald. Nancy’s dad has been a farmer for most of his 89 years. Her brother Mark has been farming for decades. They had answers to his questions.

Donald gave a thumbs up to the color of tractors. “Green,” Mark had said. Donald explained that the farm he worked for ships heifers to Africa. It sounded strange to us, but Mark assured us that it was true.

“Thank you for being patient with him,” said the woman with him. She was probably his sister. We smiled at her. “It was a good conversation,” we said.

As we were driving home, Nancy said, “That was a helpful thing, talking with Donald.” You see, the family conversations recently have been about cancer and heart surgery, walkers and treatments. Important conversations, but consuming. It took Donald, a man whose friendliness was unrestrained by conventional norms of Bob Evans propriety, to pull us into a conversation that made us smile.

On other days, other people probably wonder what Donald’s problem is, what injury took away the filters. For us on Saturday, Donald’s distration was a gift. And maybe, in the prayer before eating, he thanked God for us, just as we are thanking God for him.

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