Enjoying my coffee alone. Writing masterpieces of self-indulgence, staring at my computer screen, not looking up. Focused. In the zone, the colloquialism goes. Smirking to myself, praising myself for my cleverness and wit, my poignancy and wisdom. All the while no one reads what i write, yet i pretend what i am doing is making the world a better place.
Easy to concentrate here: silent as a church on Monday. Finally i take a breath, look up from my work. What i see is not astonishing, not really remarkable at all. i have been here often, and most likely the scene in front of me is what i would have seen every time had i bothered to look.
Every table in the place is occupied by one, and only one, patron. Postures are the same: feet planted on the ground, elbows on the tables, cheeks propped upon closed fists. No one leans back in their seats, maybe no one is truly comfortable here. The work is all different but it is all the same, too: this one reads a textbook silently, this one listens to headphones plugged into a laptop, another sits staring and biting his nails, another scrawls notes in a notebook.
No one speaks.
i get it, i know there is essentially a tacit agreement among coffee shop patrons, a universal do-not-disturb policy that has been in place since long before i came on the scene. i sensed it the first time i entered one of these establishments, sensed it and felt at home in it, knowing that not only would i not be bothered but also that i would not be forced to make small talk. No one would approach me asking my advice, no one would solicit information about my day or my job or my personal life, in fact it was very likely that no one would even make eye contact.
i have long been perfectly at ease with this arrangement. i can enter with a hundred secrets, and when i leave i will still be carrying them. i have no one to whom i must answer; no responsibilities, no duties, no missions.
i can be as selfish as i choose, and not only is it tolerated, it is preferable.
But something is different in me this time. Somehow even though most of the customers backs’ are to me, i can sense a sadness that permeates the shop which seems to just aureate from the bodies in the room.
i cannot help but wonder, when i remember how He reached out to me, what Christ would do in the same shop. Which person would He interact with first? Would He enter silently and just interrupt the patrons one by one, quietly telling them the one secret about their life they came here to forget? Would He stand in the center of the room, arms outstretched, and say, “Come to me, all of you!”?
Whatever He would do, i am almost certain that He wouldn’t sit at His corner table, writing silly sayings on a blog that no one would read. i don’t even mean to sound cynical in that, but perhaps i should do some re-thinking of my mission. How often have i neglected opportunities that were right in front of me to indulge a fancy that may or may not ever bear fruit?
Too often, i would say. Far too often indeed.
Christ, open my eyes to the tables for one in front of me, and give me the strength to pull up a chair and chat.