Every week I go to read, answer emails, drink strong coffee and write blog articles at my favorite coffee place, Rockn' Joes. This place is cozy, plays good rock n' roll on the sound system (Neil Young right now) and is full of regulars. I'm not a very social person. I know how to talk when I need to, but I am more often happy to not talk to anyone. Like Cheers, this is a place where everyone knows my name. They are friendly and the service is great.
Despite my hermit-like nature, I have gotten to know some of the regulars and have had some good discussions. Professor Mike from NYU is here most often, grading papers on his MacBook. He's like the mayor and no one sits in his seat out of respect. He has given me some good management tips, gleaned from his years of teaching them professionally.
Another fixture at Rockn' Joes is Stan (not his real name), an elderly retired man who loves to quote Shakespeare, talk politics and just be around people. He is also quick to share with anyone that he deals with depression. I gave him a copy of my autobiographical book, God's Beggars and he always apologizes for not finishing it. He's not much of a reader and I certainly don't blame him. Stan gives me a heads up when the policeman comes around to check the parking meters.
Stan is a sad soul. I have invited him to come out and volunteer with me sometime on The Relief Bus. I think it might cheer him up. It's way out of his comfort zone, however and he is afraid of dealing with homeless people. He's mostly afraid of witnessing their sadness, because he is already overburdened with enough of his own. It’s understandable, yet incorrect. Most people who serve quickly forget their own sadness (at least temporarily) as they help others.
The owner of Rockn' Joes gives free, pricey gourmet coffee to Stan every day. More important, he gives Stan a place to be and have community. Stan plants himself in a comfy leather chair and chats with the waitresses and regulars throughout the day. I saw the owner give Stan a little errand to pick up bagels to earn a breakfast bagel sandwich today.
As I am watching all of this, I am sitting here reading James 2:1-3
My friends, if you have faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ, you won't treat some people better than others. Suppose a rich person wearing fancy clothes and a gold ring comes to one of your meetings. And suppose a poor person dressed in worn-out clothes also comes. You must not give the best seat to the one in fancy clothes and tell the one who is poor to stand at the side or sit on the floor.
Stan has one of the best seats in Rockn' Joes, right next to Professor Mike and I. He didn't pay for it, it is given by the owner. The relationships are gladly given by the employees and customers. It causes me to question, do we who have more lay out a welcome mat for those who have less? Are we insulated in a world of haves, cocooned from the have nots? Are we opening our hearts and minds to the powerless and the poor, or is our time too valuable to us? Are our relationships limited to those who are important enough?
God, help me to slow down the pace of my life and my mind to see those you are placing around me that need my time, my resources and my friendship. Life's too short to live narrow, exclusive and small.