It was in the carved oak letter box outside my office door when I stopped to unlock it.
I admit to being distracted from noticing it as I climbed the stairs. The beckoning aroma of fresh-ground Moka Java tantalized my nose the minute I came in from the street.
And they say coffee has no intelligence.
Sealed and unmarked envelopes always interest me. It means whatever’s inside is real enough, close enough to warrant a modicum of continuing privacy. I respect that. Breathing a quick prayer for wisdom and discernment, I opened the white business envelope. The sheet inside held masculine handwriting.
Huh. That takes it up a couple of notches, right there.
“Granger, I read something the other day that’s got me thinking. By the way, thank you for renewing in me a desire to interact with and observe people and think about what I’m seeing. I’d let my career – or what’s left of it after the kook theorists have been playing with all our lives – kind of drop into autopilot and was pretty much going through the motions. I have you to thank for helping open my eyes.
“Anyway, I’ve been noticing that people’s infatuation with cell phones, iPads and laptops is inversely proportional to their interest in actual people. The more they text and click and play solitary games, the more they marginalize those around them while withdrawing from any meaningful social intercourse with anybody. It’s no wonder younger people have abyssmal social skills. I guess that’s why this saying caught my attention. Here it is, and I’d like your take on it.
“You’re never lonely if you like the person you’re alone with.”
Refill. I walked over to the window as I enjoyed the savory power of one of history’s oldest coffee blends. Down on the sidewalk a young mom was pushing her toddler in a stroller. She’d stopped to visit with another woman walking her aging golden retriever. The tyke was stretching to pet the dog. The dog was loving the attention, even with the occasional grasping yank of a kid still learning how to use his hands. Pet is to yank as smile is to rictus.
Both women glanced up at a short meep, smiling in recognition and waving to someone driving the vintage convertible Karmann Ghia. Dog and kid remained connected in the moment. The sun was making its morning declaration that the day promised yet more heat.
My reverie was interrupted by a discreet but firm knock on the door. I opened it to see a man I’d never seen before. Grey slacks. Button-down blue oxford cloth. Paisley tie. Polished loafers.
He was amused at my quick appraisal. “Nope. We’ve never met.” Nodding at the envelope laying on my desk he said, “I see you got my note. I wasn’t originally going to identify myself. But then I got to thinking that’s the very thing I’ve been bothered by. People crowding together while being anonymously autonomous. I had a few minutes before I need to be in the office. I decided to at least show my face.”
I invited him in, offered him coffee and motioned him to a chair.
Musing, I took my freshened cup over and sat back down at my desk. Here’s what I told him.
If you’re not liking your self no fluff, no noble busyness nor incessant partying makes any difference. Eventually you’re alone with you again. If you and you don’t get along it should come as no surprise that you won’t–can’t–play well with others, either.
What to do? The only one who understands you is the One who made you. Go to God. Do a consult with the Creator. Read His words from His Word.
You’ll have questions. Write ’em down. As you read and think about what you’re reading, answers will come. Write those down, too. The more you read and think, the more your real values will emerge. The good ones will bring a not-so-often real smile. “Yeah. I DO believe that!” The bad ones will tick you off. “Okay–that needs to go. I don’t like that about me.” Neither does God. That’s why He’s pointing it out.
This is a challenging and growing time.
Mediocre and simple souls won’t go any farther. They look right at who they could be and blink and back away. Lie. Confuse. Mislead. Manipulate. Coerce. Whatever works to let themselves slip back into “settle-for” living. To do anything else admits God has been right all along. They’re okay with living a no-challenge, mediocre, simple existence when all along He’s had a lot more for them to be and do.
Warning: mediocre and simple souls choose to be so. They do not wish to do it alone. They crave companions to be mediocre and simple, too. It lets them fool themselves into thinking that backing away from personal, spiritual excellence is a great way to live. No. They never really fool themselves, either. But they like to make you think they’ve found a fantastic life.
It’s not. It’s desperately dangerous. You become what you repeatedly do. Every time you begin letting God read you and assess the Good, Bad and Ugly, the choice is there to be made. I know–I just heard that theme, too. Weird.
Two directions. Two paths. Two choices.
Mediocre and simple is immediately easy. It seems so. Costs nothing, looks inviting and free.
The path of improvement is always a slight uphill grade you can’t see over until you choose it and begin the climb. Once you’ve taken those first few steps you can see what was hidden from you back down there at the Choice-Making Station.
Ideas. Possibilities. Alternatives. Methods. Worthwhile companions. New friends and new life. New commitment. New personal, inner strength.
Remember the list of good things in and about you God was pointing out? Remember writing them down? Go back and look at them.
“Hey! Why are they sort of shimmering like that? They didn’t do that before.”
That’s because you kept backing away and choosing to stay mediocre and simple.
“My CHOICE is making that big a difference? Hey, wait–there’s some more on that list that weren’t there before!”
Mm-hmm. That list will keep growing as long as you do.
No. That’s the start. Once you get back into the habit of reading for impact and thinking about what you’re reading, get back into the classics. I’d guess you never have really read them all, though we all tossed their titles around back there, trying to impress each other we had. Talk to real people, not your cell phone. Listen to what they say. Understand what they’re not saying. Engage your culture. By knowing who you really are and liking who you’re becoming, you’ll be more at ease with others. And you’ll be a force in helping to restore a unique American culture that has all but disappeared.
That’s what I told him. I’d gone over and picked up the coffee, then walked toward his chair. Handing his note and envelope back to him, I stood holding the half-full carafe of coffee. I smiled and said, “So. What’ll it be?”
Standing and checking his watch, he pitched his head to one side, smiled back and said, “Now, why do I have the impression we’re no longer talking about coffee? Oh–and thanks!”
Never did get his name. I’ve a hunch he’ll be back some time. In the meantime, this is some perfectly good joe that needs some attention. I poured myself another cup.
After all, I get along with me pretty well. And we both love good coffee.
© July 2013