Having been asked on numerous occasions lately about what I do at the coffee shop all day, I've decided to give you a narrative of a recent day in my life at the coffee shop.
Sitting. Watching. Listening. I enjoy it. Sitting, watching, and listening bring me moments of insight. I office here because I can sit, watch, and listen.
A loud man in the corner demands attention by his commanding presence and booming voice. He's never met a stranger. Abrasive, though, to those looking for a respite. He calls across the room for the barista to prepare some bagels for he and his guest, who looks embarassed by the demand. She smiles and complies.
She always smiles and complies, but I often wonder what she really thinks. She has great people skills and is always friendly to me and my family. She knows our names, and the names of our children. She calls them by name when we arrive. She still addresses me as Mr. Bishop, though, as a sign of respect. On occasion she slips into a more familiar mode and calls me Jason. Today she is training a new employee that will be replacing one of my new friends who has taken a new job.
The other barista tells me about his morning. He woke up late and opened the shop late. It was the first time people had been waiting for him to get here at 6:45 to open. He's had one of those days that seemed to just thrust him out there whether he was ready or not. He seems to have leveled out now, mastering the day that wanted to master him. We both play indoor soccer, and he sometimes referees my games. It gives us a common interest to talk about, and he always has great stories of some of the games he's officiated that involve people we both know. His stories are always entertaining.
Caryn stops by, having just dropped our daughter off at Mother's Day Out. She updates me on her day as we share a bagel and gives me an ETA on when she'll be ready for lunch, then jets out the door with her list of things to do.
Some older men sitting around the big round table in the middle of the earth-tone room discuss business like old friends discussing life. They speak in terms familiar to each other, but somewhat obscure to those within ear shot.
Somewhat listening to the conversation while I unpack my laptop, something said reminds me of a friend I haven't talked to in a couple of days. Why not call him? So, I do. Just in the nick of time, it appears. He's had a rough day and needed to vent a little. Work and life have him running ragged, and I seem to be an anchor to bring him back to reality every now and then. I never really tell him anything he didn't already know, but I serve as a reminder. He wants to get together tomorrow morning at 8, right here. We'll talk, laugh, catch up, and embrace life and faith together, sharing the struggles of living in a fallen world while encouraging one another to keep stepping.
At the display case a young man tattooed from wrist to shoulder contemplates what style bagel to partake of. He's been eyed by the customers since he came in. His ear disc, rough hair cut, and inked condition have garnered him the suspicious glances of the older patrons. Sitting near the bagel case, I lean over and recommend the green chili bagel. He nods, smiles, and orders the green chili bagel.
The gleem of something bright outside catches my eye. It's one of the regulars who has ridden his hybrid bike here. His helmet sparkles in the sunlight as he climbs the curb with his bike. I'm amused that he rides his bike here. I've thought about doing so myself to save on gas and get a little more exercise in. He gets his cup of coffee, and comes to my table to sit and chat. We talk mostly about airplanes as he is retired Air Force. I always learn something new when we chat, which is just about every day. The funny thing; he'll leave, and be back an hour later for a refill. Arriving this time in his truck, he tells me he needs to get busy with his day and saunters off to meet the day at 11:00 a.m.
As he exits, another new friend close to my age wanders in. Having formerly owned a coffee shop, he and I have struck up a relationship based on my myraid questions about coffee house culture. We visit for a while about his new job, and he invites my wife and I over for dinner in the near future.
Some time later, the girl whose replacement is being trained comes in and sits at a nearby table. She glances over and says she was hoping I'd be here. I'd better close my laptop for this one. She slides her chair over and we discuss life and faith. She's had quite a semester and just wants some encouraging words. Having honored me with the role of Pastor in her life, she came looking for advice and spiritual comfort. Two hours later she smiles and says, "Thanks for listening." "No problem. That's what I'm hear for." And it truly is.
My stomach alerts me that it's lunch time. I should have known it sooner. Next door is a restaurant where Seniors seem to instictively flock like the salmon of Capistrano at 10:45 in the morning! Caryn and I have a lunch date as soon as she is done shopping for our bi-weekly staples. I wonder what I'll miss while I'm gone for lunch. I hope she'll wait just a tad longer so that I can watch for a friend who usually shows up around lunch time. This kindred spirit happened into the coffee shop some months ago for the first time, and we began talking about a book he was reading. I had asked him what he thought and his response matched mine perfectly. Our conversation illuminated our kindred spirits, being brothers in Christ with a passion for changing the world. He's been so many places, and the movement is not new to him. I enjoy getting to pick his brain. As I wonder if he will make it in, sure enough, he's outside my window smiling and waving like he was just thinking the same thing. When he enters, he comes straight to my table and we catch up on travels, family, and faith. He asks if he could have an hour of my time to pick my brain about something. Not today, though. I have a date. Friday it is, then, at 11.
I live among people mostly neglected by the community of faith here. Not many of them have a voice of hope present in their lives. If they are to hear about hope and find the love of Christ that will complete them, I must be here. I've grown to love my "flock." One older Christian observed one day that these people needed to be in church. My observation was that church needed to be with them. So here I am. Sitting. Watching. Listening. Praying. I pray that God will help me to observe the things I need to know to convey hope, love, and acceptance to my flock. It turns out that I pastor a coffee shop where I sit, watch, listen, pray, and share. And I love it.
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