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Ordinary People



Behind the counter. Espresso machine to the right. Grinders wait. Quiet. I stand and listen. A gentleman—retired Navy Seaman—shares his story. This isn't the first time he has stopped by and bent my ear. We know each by name. Same camo checkered hat—pinned with a black US Navy logo—sits securely atop his thinning gray haired head. Thick glasses perched upon pointed nose. His usual sits next to his waiting calloused hands. The plot climbs, climaxes, and closes; he begins anew. No breath. No pause. No lull. Third. A continual tale that freely flows into a fourth. His words might be the same, but the narration never repeats. Collection of memories. Descriptive words. Battleship life. Korean War. Horrors he has witnessed in the name of freedom. Freedom is not cheap. Freedom costs. Thank you, sir, for your service.

Another gentleman visits regularly. He questions dosing, roasts, recipes, and excitedly talks coffee. The conversations stray to other subjects constantly across the counter. His usual no longer as his palette progresses. "What would you like today?" I inquire. "Doppio, please," comes the response. Coffee grinds. Coffee prepared. Deep crema.

An older lady from Tennessee. She rests her arms on the same counter, hands wrapped around a warm Americano. Decaf. Non-traditional. Her life story for me to hear. Accent thick and genuine. Married life. Military life. Civilian life. "We've now been out of the service longer than in," she continues, "moved from North Carolina and all around." I query. She smiles. I welcome the response.

Recent transplant who—now calls our city home—studies here on a daily basis. Cubano sits, waiting, next to him on that same counter. Our colloquy contains his past life before he, and his family, escaped his previous state. "I love it here," he quips, "there's actually four seasons I finally get to experience."

Family members visit while whittling away lunch breaks. Salami shots split and rests upon counter. Understanding extraction. Thought provoking dialect betwixt. Coffee orders taken to co-workers waiting.

"What would you like today?" I ask another. "I should know this already," she says while laughing, "surprise me." Cup filled and placed on counter. We talk. Our speech seems to always travel back to farm life: chickens, sheep, goats, and the list continually grows.

Life encompasses. Life unfolds. Life learned. Through doors and towards the counter. Faces known. New faces become regulars. Regulars become friends. Friends become family. First name basis. Stories shared. Daily visitations. Daily struggles. Daily accomplishments. Prayer requests. Answered prayer. Apologetics. Theology. Accumulation of words weave as a grand story—braided history in the making—takes shape. Memoir's tapestry. Comedy combined with tragedy. Interwoven by colorful common thread. An atmosphere of arras anecdotes hangs above.

Minutes multiply into hours behind the counter. Treasure trove of thoughts develops into words as shared experiences flux. Ideas. Inquiries. Inspection.

Socratic discussion initiated by a single subject sentence runs full circle. We learn—together—by journeying upon rabbit trails. Recollection of books read helps continue our audible journal. Quoting. Paralleling. The written word welcome. Tolkien. Lewis. Spurgeon. Chambers. Dickens. Orwell. Discussing text. Teaching and learning. Passion exudes during our friendly debates. “Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another.” [Proverbs 27:17] Prose. One topic transitions to another and furthers conversation. Six degrees of separation. Conversing comparison chart: both have, both are, both do. Long Blacks and Piccolos sipped; the counter silently stands while listening to dialogue breathed out.

"We meet no ordinary people in our lives."
— C.S. Lewis

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