I'm sitting in a coffee shop in downtown Henderson, Texas enjoying a chai tea latte on a foggy Thursday morning. Although the wifi is the same, the coffee shops here are not exactly like the specialty shops in Central Arkansas.The drinks are different, and people have a different perspective of coffee in general.This is the most happening coffee spot in this town of 13,000 and the locals love it. As I write, a white man in his 60's dawns a grey suit, a copy of today's paper, and the beloved "Texas handlebar" mustache. In front of him, the junior high football coach, a black man in his 40's, banters with the seemingly "Irish-hipster" (let that cue your mental imagery) behind the espresso machine. Life is happening here at MoJoe's. Business is happening. News is being shared. Friendships are being formed.I'm blogging. But yesterday's experience was much different...
I had scheduled a coffee meeting with an aspiring church planter at this same spot. Looking forward to being finished with my commitments for the day at the local seminary where I am doing a series of Spring lectures on the topic of "church planting", we entered the doors with excitement. As I approached the counter, I began to make my selection. "What can I get ya?", said the Longhorn hipster. "Do you have anything sweetened with brown sugar and honey," I said, as my mind resorted back to my favorite drink from the natural state. "Hmmmm.... I don't think so. What would you call a drink like that," he asked. "Back home we call it a cortado" I said, passively relaying my coffee expertise in front of my new friend who had come to ask me questions about what I do. "We don't make anything like that," he remarked, "I'll have to check into it." After getting our drinks, we sat down and had a great conversation.
Upon entering today, I was a greeted much differently. "Stuck here again, huh" said the same barista. Whoa, I thought to myself. I think I just experienced one of the most passive-aggressive expressions I've heard in awhile. After ordering and exchanging some friendly-er phrases, I sat down to tackle my daily round of correspondence through text, email, and various social media platforms. During the next 30 minutes, I overheard that same barista talk as he was asked about the pain he had been experiencing in his chest as well as the fate of his shop when the new Starbucks opened just down the road. "People love Starbucks," he stated, "I don't know if we'll be able to keep the doors open or not."
We never really know what people are processing on the inside do we? Even the slightest comment, although we may mean no harm, can hurt a person, especially if they are already suffering. Sometimes that person may even harbor that comment for the rest of day and into the next, maybe even longer. Last year, through a series of difficult circumstances, I made the decision to begin with the assumption that everyone is trying their best. I have found this to be one of the only good assumptions that I have ever made. When we give others the benefit of the doubt, we start conversations differently. We also view others differently. We are less likely to cast judgement and to be unfair in our assessments of the decisions of others. I have found that viewing others in this way often becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy that brings out the best in others and liberates our own souls from bitterness and resentment.
Yesterday, during one of my main sessions, I missed a call from my mother. After I finished the lecture, I stepped out of class and listened to the voicemail that informed me that my dad had suffered his first stroke. While speaking to him on the phone, I noticed that, for the first time in his life, his speech had a slight slur. He spirits remain high as always, and he anticipates playing golf together for his company tournament that we had planned for next weekend. Last night, I was invited to the apartment of a couple of guys from the seminary for authentic Japanese Sushi. Before the meal, one of the students asked if there was anything that they could pray for me specifically. I shared the news of my dad's situation with them and they asked for God's provision in his life. It meant the world to me and our time together ended up not only being a meal for our bellies, but food for my soul.
You never know what others are going through. It could be your words that operate as wind in their sails or as the venom that penetrates their blood stream and causes them to toss and turn at night. I don't want to be the kind of person who orders the one thing that is not on the coffee menu. I want to be the kid of person that adds value to others and encourages them in the middle of their circumstances. Would you join me in this endeavor? Let's be kind to others today. Who knows, we may just make a difference in this world.
-May God bless & keep you