Sunday, July 15, 2012

An Observation from a Coffee Shop

Something funny happened a week ago that was a lesson that I won't forget for a long time. I decided to bike into our village prior to church and sit at the coffee shop.  Most the time I'm with my son but this time he didn't come home and I was alone. My wife was at her evangelical church.

I had just purchased a new Iphone for my business the day before and rather than sticking my little pocket computer . . . well . . . in my pocket or grabbing my book (still working on For Whom the Bell Tolls) I decided to spend my hour prior to church exploring my new phone.

Well two things happened.  First, I got to town much faster than normal. This was from taking a different route, one via a much busier highway, and also from me peddling harder. I am a notoriously slow biker so I have lots of time that can be made up when I work harder at it.

The second thing that happened was that my phone was dead in the water (the battery came uncharged). So I had 90 minutes to kill at the coffee shop with absolutely nothing to do.

I got my coffee and went outside to sit and to watch.  I thought of the older men I saw in Florence a year ago.  Every day they get their espresso and sit on the edge of the piazza (central square) and just watch. Think, watch and talk a little.  This is something I've done very little of in my life.

In the American, post-industrialized, evangelicalize world I grew up in, there was no place for sitting and doing nothing.  The way it was taught to me when I first became a Christian was, The world is ending soon, most of the people are going to hell, it is my job to save them . . . how dare me to just sit.

Then I remember growing through the age (in the Navigators at least) of "Time Management."  We all had "Day Timers" note books were we wrote down every thing we were to do all day long in 15 minute segments.  We considered it sin to leave one 15 minute segment unfilled . . . after all . . . remember that people were going to Hell and it was my responsibility to stop them.

So I still feel guilty about idleness (isn't it the Devil's workshop?  Now where is that in the Bible?).  On top of that I'm trying to run a business and I'm trying to keep a house from falling apart so there is very little time. It seems to only happen in those rare situations when I have no choice (like on a long airplane flight and my laptop battery is dead).

So there I sat, staring and watching people.  I saw how they interacted. I noticed small stores that I hadn't seen before . . . and I've lived here 9 years.  Then my mind started to wake up. It was the creative part. The part that is constantly being suppressed under the list of must dos. How refreshing I thought.  While I feel like I've had the equivalent of "writer's block" in my creative energies, suddenly good thoughts were coming out of their hiding place.

The next amazing thing I noticed was I entered a conversation with a complete stranger at the next table.  I can't remember who spoke first. Maybe it was just me asking for the time, since I had no way of knowing. But the conversation blossomed into some rather deep topics. Indeed, by the time I had to race off to church (ironically) we were discussing the possibilities of God's existence and whether or not Christianity is true.  He grew up Catholic, left because of abuses he witnessed. He married a staunch agnostic.  He thought that he would "retry" Christianity when he discovered Joel Osteen on TV. Then he went to a live meeting with him at a large dome in Tacoma.   He took his two sons to try and help them find God.  He left very disappointed . . . like he had just witnessed a circus or sales pitch (lots of money was raised).

So I leave the man. But it was okay, I think our conversation had gone as far as it could have for complete stranger.  Then it dawned on me while I was biking through town, so profoundly that I burst into laughter, how ironic.  Maybe the idle mind, rather than being the Devil's workshop, is God's workshop, where imaginative notions are born and "evangelism" happens naturally and without any prior intent.


Steve Scott said...

Good for you. I maintain that Solomon was a people watcher. That's why he wrote so much content in the "wisdom books."

L.W. Dickel said...

And then Jesus came upon his disciples and said, "Brethren, what's this I heareth about me being a human sacrifice for your sins? May I asketh, Who in the goddamn hell came up with that Neanderthal bullshit!!!?
Blood sacrifice!!!??? Are you all fucking insane!!?
What are we, living in the goddamn Stone Age!!!??
Listen brethren, you can taketh that ridiculous, pathetic, immoral, vile, wicked, evil, sadistic pile of Cro-Magnon donkey shit and shoveth it straight up thy fucking asses!!"--Jesus H. Christ, the Thinking Mans Gospel

Jaimie said...

I like this a lot.

jmj said...

L.W. I can't contact you directly, but I sense some painful event between you and the Church at some point in your life. All I can say is that many of use here have been hurt the same way and we don't defend anything that may have been wrong. I say this not based on the logic of doubting the Christian message, but the emotion in which you express it.