Lessons from a Coffee Shop

January 8, 2021

I sit in this tiny and quaint coffee shop. It’s one of my favorites to visit when I come through this historic Indiana town. As I sip my maple latte, a beverage better than most deserts I’ve tasted, I’m drawn to the people around me. Usually I’m here only a few minutes, waiting on my drink, or simply passing the time in between appointments, with eyes plastered to my phone. Today is different. I’ve got nowhere specific to be and time is a luxury I’m not battling with momentarily, so I sit and sip and watch. 

It’s quite interesting the things you notice when you aren’t looking at an iPhone screen. There aren’t dozens of people, only a select few, but immediately I can tell there are so many stories held within these strangers. I imagine what each person is like, what each one is going through, what each one is hiding, afterall, we’re all hiding something aren’t we? Maybe it’s the emotion of heartbreak, or the anxiousness of decisions to make, or the grief, addictions, and less than authentic inclusions of our story. Either way, we all have stories and I find myself drawn to the unknowns held within this room. 

A table away sits a stunning woman, one I’m immediately intrigued by. She radiates poise and purpose. She glistens with confidence and organization, patiently awaiting her order. I wonder what turmoils she’s faced, if any. I wonder what has crafted her into the woman she is today, the one who sits here admired by a stranger. I wonder if she’s been changed by anything significant and what fears she might hold. I wonder if she’s ever lost someone she loved and became changed by grief. I bet her story is a gem, even if it’s yet to be told. 

Filling a simple and disposable cup of coffee is an elderly man. His demeanor matches the simplicity and plainness of his coffee. Most probably wouldn’t even notice him, he’s quiet and pays little attention to the patrons who walk beside him. I wonder what adventures he’s led. I wonder if he has some grandiose love story. I wonder if he’s lonely or if his life is filled with a beautiful legacy he’s worked hard to create. I look at his lines and his greying hair, knowing they hold adventures and excitement. I look at this man and imagine how enthralled I’d become listening to his life’s anecdotes. 

Behind my table is the distinguishable laughter and charismatic ringings of youth. Two young girls, both wearing shirts that show their midriff though it’s only 34 degrees outside. I smile at them, they notice. I wonder if they know that I’m more like them than they can imagine, or at least I used to be. I can’t hear their conversation but I don’t need to, the humor, immaturity and raw thoughts radiate from them like the heat from a bonfire. If you get close enough, you can not only feel the heat, but smell the remnants of the adventure. I wonder if young girls are starting to be braver, more confident, and more authentic than when I was a teen. I find myself looking at them again, and hoping so. 

Sitting by the door, as if wanting a quick exit, sit two business men. They’re a delicate mixture of cowboy and trendy city entrepreneur. You can tell the meeting is business, but also that they’ve connected beyond that, to actually enjoy each other’s company. It’s nice to see people conversing in simple and meaningful ways. You can tell they aren’t faking small talk or trying to get the next sale. They are genuinely investing in the conversation and the elements each provides. They’re so engulfed in the conversation they don’t notice my longer than acceptable glance, thankfully. I find them inspiring, something I bet they would never guess from a simple stranger’s glance at a coffee shop. 

I’m so mesmerized by the strangers that surround me I realize I’ve not only left my drink untouched, getting colder by the moment, but also my phone hasn’t been utilized since I walked in the door to this tranquil little place. I wonder of the world I’ve missed while staring at my phone. I wonder what stories I’ve missed, personalities I’ve ignored, people I’ve made to feel invisible and unseen. 

I hear the jingle of the door open and I’m suddenly snapped back to reality, to this moment and to this delicious latte. Somehow a ten minute outing to my favorite coffee shop has led to more than the gift of a delicious beverage, it’s gifted me a reminder of intentional living. 

Everyone has a story, and all I have to do is be less distracted so I can see and hear it. 

xox, Chels

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A wife, mother and educator who has Indiana roots and a passionate spirit. Chelsea is a sappy romantic, coffee junkie, book collector, and person who wears her heart on her sleeve. She’s sarcastic, full of jokes, full of tears, and enjoys writing most when life gets messy or complicated. In 2017, Chelsea's mother passed away. Through her grief journey, she decided to take her mother’s advice and share her writing with the world. One day she gained the courage to honor her mother's wishes and write. It turned out to be one of the best decisions she's ever made.

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