The older I become, the more beholden I am to the fact that human beings are the world’s most precious resource. If you grew up in the modern Western church, as I did, you’ve been told this is true. “Loving God, Loving People” – that’s the name of the game, yes? There’s a profound difference between stating those words as a claim, almost as if to remind ourselves of where our priorities ought to be, and sincerely feeling the truth of the words in our bones.
I think few of us feel the value of people very often, and it’s understandable, because it is the vaunted mark of the spirit of our age to diminish people – to view them as much more of a nuisance – a hindrance, even – to those things that are most important. And what is important, really? Politics? Morality? Progress? Stuff? Everything in this world – whether it be material or conceptual – is fleeting – except people. When a human is birthed, a brand new, eternal being pierces the veil beyond what we call existence, and he or she will always, always be. What else in life can we say this about, other than the Creator himself?
This is a long preamble to a new, FAR overdue, “Faces In The Sea” – a tribute to one of my favorite people (and places).
I have a short list of favorite places in the world. Central Perk Coffee in Puyallup may well top my list. When I pass from this world, there will be no need to scatter my ashes or bury me by some landmark. When I die, just know that Jesus has already built a replica of Central Perk – a Central Perk of the Heavens – where I may spend eternity in a friendly spot with great people and bottomless coffee. Of course, Sophie will need to be there too – at least, an angel disguised as Sophie.
Sophie, beloved owner of Central Perk, owns a smile as warm as your favorite custom beverage and carries a hospitality genome that ought to qualify her for membership in a league of coffee brewing superheroes. She’s also generous enough to allow a perceptively disadvantaged word addict like myself to fill a chair in her establishment for six hours straight, while I transform cups of coffee into trips to the bathroom at a notable pace of two or three per hour.
Here’s the thing about Sophie and Central Perk: for me, they exist in another world – a less hurried world. In the world, there are few places I go where I am not flooded with a sense of the frantic. These are mediocre times. People have grown frustrated, for the world desires to move faster and faster, and we have now reached a crucial point, where the world has outrun our finite human capacities. It is frustrating to be outrun. Most of us have one standard response to this dilemma – run harder – keep that phone charged, get a faster internet connection, bring work home, pick up some greasy drive-thru on the way to pick up the kids from soccer practice – run harder!
When I’m at Central Perk, not only do I stop running, but I forget all about running. I trade a constant feed of media for uncharted minutes (or hours) of calm. I trade greasy drive-thru for home made fagioli, and I trade my place in society’s aimless, breakneck marathon for surrender to heaven’s gravitational pull toward that which makes my heart come alive.
It’s been said that each person has something they can do which makes his or her heart come alive. How many of us do that thing, whatever it is? And if we are fortunate enough to discover that unique thing, how rarely do we take time to indulge it? When I see Sophie – loving her customers, loving the people who work for her – I see her heart is alive. A heart alive. Imagine that.