Life can be hard. But people are good.

Friday I worked a shift at my favorite local tavern. I’ve been tending bar occasionally for almost 15 years. I like doing it, even when I don’t need the money. One reason is the people I get to meet & talk to. Like Dennis, who I met Friday.

My shift was 11a — 6p. Around 4p we got pretty busy — the mayor, the sheriff, & all their buddies like to gather here. They’re normal people, like the rest of us. Another thing I like about tending bar — the bar itself is a great equalizer. That’s a topic for another time.

Anyway, we had a good crowd. It was a full bar. Jukebox blaring, rounds being bought, jokes being told.

In the middle of it all a guy I didn’t recognize came in alone. He definitely wasn’t part of the mayor’s crowd. He definitely hadn’t spent all day in the office. It was evident he had been doing manual labor of some sort.

He sat at the far-end of the bar by the windows. I greeted him & he asked for a Busch N/A. I opened the cooler I was standing at, & started to dig around. “They’re at the other end,” he said. I looked up & the bar owner was grabbing a can of Busch N/A out of the other cooler. The bar owner is always at his bar — as is any good owner of a local tavern. Again, a topic for another time.

I went down & got the Busch N/A, brought it back to Dennis & opened it as I slid it across the bar to him.

“I’m probably the only one that drinks these things,” he said. I smiled at him. “Me & <insert bar owner’s name here> go back 30 years,” he continues. “And this Tuesday will mark 27 years since I’ve been clean & sober.”

“Wow,” I said. “Congratulations.”

He smiled & said, “Thank you. It’s surely not been easy, but you just have to take it one day at a time.”

I told him, “I know. My mom was an alcoholic. And by ‘was’ I mean she passed. I know once you’re an alcoholic, you’re never not an alcoholic — you’re recovering or you’re not.”

“I’m sorry,” he said.

I smiled. “Thank you.”

“My name is Dennis.”

“Hi Dennis, I’m Dané.”

We shook hands.

Then something compelled me to go further. “My best friend is dealing with it right now. Her boyfriend is really in the depths, & refuses to get help,” I said.

He shook his head.

At that point I had to get back to the crowd, & our conversation was put on pause. He was there about an hour & had three cans of Busch N/A. I could tell he was getting ready to head out, so I went down to say good bye.

“It was really nice to meet you, Dennis,” I said. He reached his hand across the bar took hold of mine. His hands were rough, but his touch was gentle. He leaned in & looked me straight in the eye. His eyes were clear blue — about the same as mine but with a bit more experience & wisdom behind them.

“I’ll pray for your friend,” he said. “She’s gotta get outta there.” I nodded my head. “All she’s doing is enabling him,” he went on. “And she doesn’t deserve to deal with that if he don’t wanna get help.”

“I know,” I said. “I’ll tell her you’re praying for her. Thank you.”

He nodded & smiled.

And with that, he was gone.

I emailed my friend the next morning to let her know yet another soul in the universe was sending her good vibes & would help carry her through this difficult time.

Life can be hard. But people are good. And they make life so good.