It’s often said that bartenders are like cheap therapists, and most days that feels like the truth. So, one day when I saw a reserved older man, sitting at the end of my bar all alone and looking like he had the world on his shoulders, naturally I went over and asked what he wanted to drink. He smiled kindly, his eyes crinkling around the edges just a little.
“I’ll take whiskey neat please, that’ll cure almost anything.”
I laughed at that and proceeded to pour him his drink, and as I set it down in front of him, I felt like this was a man who truly needed to talk. So, I started babbling, like I do when I’m nervous, plus for some reason he just seemed like someone who liked to listen more than he liked to speak. I told him some funny stories about some customers that I had recently, and he laughed. He had the kind of laugh that was contagious, and it made you warm just to be in the presence of it. Suddenly a news bulletin came across the tv, a terrible accident with a school bus and a car. The man sighed deeply and finished his drink, that weight of the world seemed to have returned to his shoulders, he thanked me for the laughs and for his drink, payed his tab and left in a hurry. He was a sweet man and a great tipper; I said a little prayer that everything would work out for him while I watched him walk out the door. I never saw the little grin that graced his face as he turned up his collar to the cold and left.
The next time this mysterious man came in it was another slow day, he sat in the same spot, and he ordered the same drink. I asked how he was doing, if things had gotten any better since I had seen him last, genuinely interested in this man’s life. He smiled a little, took a small sip from his drink and then he spoke.
“You have a kind heart, and I know you’ll believe me when I tell you the truth. I am God, and sometimes when I feel that I am failing at my job, when the fate of all these people rests on me alone, I come down to the world and I talk with people. I listen to their stories, some are about heartbreak, or loss, and when I leave, I never visit the same place twice, but I came back here because you prayed for me. Not many care deeply enough about a stranger to try and make them laugh, and then pray for them.”
I took in what the man had said, I rolled the words around in my brain. Of course, at that point I thought he might just be crazy, I mean who wouldn’t have thought the same? I looked him over again, looking for any sign of deception, or maliciousness, but I found none.
“If you are God that means it’s a sin to lie to you, so I’m going to be straight with you. Right now I think you might just be some crazy person sitting at my bar, but you’re a nice man and good company so I can roll with crazy, but if you really are God I would’ve given you a little extra whiskey in your glass so try leading with that next time.”
He laughed so hard at that He almost fell off his stool, but once He regained His composure, He finished His drink and asked for another, and as promised I put just a little extra whiskey in. Then He started to talk because right then and there He was just a man who needed someone to listen. God talked about the ways He thought had failed humanity, how He made them struggle so they could learn true compassion, but it had only seemed to harden their hearts toward their fellow man. How sad He was to look upon His children and see so much hatred and pain. God took a sip from His drink and looked down sadly. I thought hard about it for a moment, my face scrunching up in the way I knew it did when I was thinking and then I said to him:
“God, if you created everything, that means you’ve created parents right?”
He nodded his head in affirmation, tilting his head and giving me a quizzical look, wondering where I was going with this.
“I’ve never met a parent who thought they were doing everything right for their children. Every father sits up at night when he must punish his child and wonders if he made the right choice, every mother feels badly when their child cries because of something they had to do to teach them some lesson. I don’t have any children of my own, but my parents punished me to let me know right from wrong, and to make me a better person. So maybe you just feel badly like any other parent does when they have to punish their children. In the end it teaches them something about themselves and about the world. Just as long as you’re giving them the insight as to why you’re punishing them and you truly believe what you are doing is fair, I don’t think you’re damaging them; they are damaging themselves by letting their own hatred fuel them.”
God didn’t move for a minute, He just stared at me searching my eyes like he was reading my soul, and I just shrugged my shoulders, grabbing a rag and wiping down part of the bar to avoid that gaze. After a few minutes God finished His drink, setting the glass down, pulling out a few bills to pay, and I figured after a speech like that I had to lighten the mood a little.
“You know I feel a little funny about taking money from you now, I mean you created the people that made the glass, the whiskey, the bar itself, seems weird to make you pay for your drinks after that. I mean I’m still going to since a girl has to make a living, but I’ll feel funny about it.”
God laughed, he seemed grateful for my attempt at humor.
“Well good bartenders are hard to come by; I should know since I’ve made them all, so I’ll make sure to throw an extra few bucks in there for you.”
“Well thanks I appreciate that, and if you can throw in a good review online for me that would be great. If people find out God’s drinking here they might be more inclined to stop by.”
“You know I would but the wifi in Heaven’s been giving me some trouble lately.”
“Eh that’s what they all say.”
I reached my arm across the bar and shook God’s hand, surprised it was so soft with all of the work He must do.
“Don’t give up on us humans quite yet, we might still surprise you by doing a few good things, after all we did figure out how to make some great whiskey.”
With another chuckle He put on his coat and headed for the door.
God started coming in more frequently, usually on days when no one was there. We would talk for a while, sometimes He just needed someone to listen, and sometimes He needed to be the one listening to some crazy new story I had, but He always came in needing some whiskey neat and a laugh.