Sharing life’s cinnamon rolls

3 Comments

Are you an innie or an outie?

This is the question a middle-aged woman posed to her friend as they sat down together at a local coffee shop. Noticeably pregnant and well into my third trimester, I couldn’t help buty wonder if she was directing the question toward me, talking about the belly button emerging from under my shirt.

I then noticed the woman point to a freshly baked cinnamon roll sitting on the table in-between them.

“Do you like to eat it from the inside or the outside?”

They were sharing the treat and it was clear from the excited look on the woman’s face that her friend answered with the preferred answer.

“Outside.”

I smiled at their shared logic, and also felt relieved not having to engage awkward dialogue about my bulging abdomen.

The conversation between these two friends reminded me of a quote I have posted in my office as a daily level-setting prompt: “Find yourself in everyone you meet.” I wish I remembered where I heard this for the first time, but regardless of its origin, the statement has continued to impact the way I look at the world. I’ve found that the more we can find ourselves in others, the easier it is to be understanding, kind and empathetic when it seems most difficult.

The two women found themselves in each other, but also celebrated their differences as complements – even if in a very small way.

On a separate occasion, I sat near an elderly couple who were a fine example of teamwork, friendship and love. The two sat close to each other, sharing one cup of coffee with a table full of large books in front of them. The wife read, while he pretended to be engaged in the words she was mumbling. Their actions were the true definition of marriage – laughing together one minute and bickering the next.

He held up a shiny iPhone in his hand with a seemingly defeated look on his face before turning toward his wife and handing her the device.

“It says you go ‘bink bink’ and you’re on your way, but I can’t figure it out.”

photoAfter speaking into the bottom of the phone, the wife stubbornly held up the phone as if trying to take a photo. Her husband held his hand up to stop her and then removed his glasses and smiled. Nothing happened.

The couple continued reading the books in front of them, all with titles aiming to help beginners navigate use of Apple products. Every new “trick” they stumble upon called for a minor celebration.

After burying his nose in a small, white paperback manual the size of a worn-out novel, the husband jumped up excitedly.

“Wallpaper!”

The wife seemed more frustrated than impressed, asking her husband how he found the new tool. He leaned over, taking on the role of teacher, while she eagerly watched him navigate to the wallpaper feature. An earlier scene began to play out again, as the wife snapped a photo of her husband with intentions of using it as ‘wallpaper’ on her new gadget. As the wife fumbled with the phone, her husband stood up and began heading to the restroom – but not without sharing newfound wisdom with his wife.

“Don’t forget wallpaper means it will be behind everything on your phone.”

She rolled her eyes. The two continued to work with their new mobile devices for more than an hour, together celebrating and secretly competing to be the first to find reach a new milestone.

“Oh, look here! I found the messages,” the wife said. The husband was silent and seemed to be avoiding the fact that his wife had beat him at his own game. He decided it was time to leave.

“We need to get going. We’ve been here too long.”

While attempting to navigate chaos during the holidays, we sometimes take for granted those closest to us, forgetting how they reflect a piece of who we are. Finding others as complements is not always easy, but it is necessary. This holiday season; remember to take time to think of how those in your life play a part in making a better you. After all, it doesn’t matter how you choose to consume your cinnamon roll, it’s finding a way to share the frosting that makes experiences most memorable.

Advertisements

New Year Lessons: Naps, Trains and Weddings

10 Comments

While others are well on their way to jump starting new years resolutions, I’m still trying to figure out how 2012 is already here! But, I’d be lying if I said I’m not also taking time to reflect on 2011 and set goals (finally) for 2012. Except, this year, I decided to use coffee shop lessons as an inspiration.

This year my goal is to write down one lesson I’ve learned each day. But before tackling that goal, I want to reflect on a few lessons I learned in coffee shops during 2011.

1. Two women, appearing to be close friends, coincidentally visit the same coffee shop at the same time. The women engage in conversation while waiting in line,  not taking long to share personal details.

“When I dream, I’m always young and single,” one of them said. “But I would never tell my husband that.”

Lesson: It’s important to have close friends. Every conversation adds a new  layer to the relationship.

2. A woman shared a glimpse of her life a few years ago. Her husband was forced to retire due to injury, she lost her job and so did her sister. Her mom became ill and the family dog passed away — all within two months. She allowed herself to be sad, but not for long. Realizing their break from obligations, the three moved to be closer to and help their mother. Had they not lost their jobs, they would have needed to hire someone to help.

Lesson:  Bad things happen; sometimes all at the same time. But, it’s a matter of perspective and how we react to the situation that really matters.

3. During a brief exchange with a barista, one woman said, “I’ve found my running pace improves with short, quick steps.”

Lesson: Exactly what she said.

4. A mother of the bride was discussing details with her daughter’s wedding planner. As the conversation builds, she begins speaking quicker with each word, as if paying the planner by the minute. “So much goes into planning,” she said. “We have the horse and carriage and now I’m thinking we are going to need to plow the field for the buses to get through.”

Really?

Lesson: Our society places too much emphasis on the details of the wedding and not enough on the meaning of the wedding. I can’t help but think of how the money paying for these lavish affairs might be spent otherwise to help fulfill the basic needs of others.

 

5. One man sits down, while another approaches the counter to order. He then returns to the table, coffee mug in hand. “Think my wife will like this one?” he said, holding up a red and white striped mug.

“I don’t know which one she would like better, but that one is cracked.”

“Probably a good reason not to get it.”

Lesson: Some things aren’t meant to be.

6.  Two businessmen are meeting to discuss, well, their children. “My daughter’s dorm was hit by the hurricane,” one of them said. “Her Resident Assistant helped get her through the terrible experience.” He went on, sharing his daughter’s experience had resulted in her volunteering for relief effort clean up and signing up to be a Resident Assistant in 2012.

Lesson: Sometimes opportunities appear when we least expect them.

7. A man rushed in to the coffee shop, noticeably frustrated. Another man passing by recognized him and they made small talk. When asked about being upset the man said, “I decided to leave the office and grab coffee before biting someone’s head off.”

Lesson: We all have these days. It’s best to accept it, buy a cup of coffee and move on.

8. A young college student sitting by herself breaks concentration to say hi to a young man as he sits near her. During their conversation she tells him about a time her family took a vacation abroad. Her mom was separated from her in a large crowd getting on a train. Her and her brother stared at the train as it departed with their mom aboard and no way of contacting her. They waited for the next train, rode to the next stop and didn’t find their mother until returning to their hotel two hours later.

Lesson: Keep family close – literally.

9. On more than one occasion, conversations focused on having trouble finding a perfect gift.  One man shared he was at a loss trying to think of something his 90 year-old mother would need. Another woman juggled gift ideas for her father-in-law. After deep discussion, it was settled – the mother would be getting a generator (she’s lost power five times in the past year) and the father-in-law, football tickets.

Lesson: Spend less time wondering “what to give” and more perfecting the act of “how to give”.

10. I walk past a man on the way in, keep an eye on him over my shoulder while visiting and smile at him upon leaving. The man sat in the middle of the coffee shop; swallowed by an oversized, dark brown leather chair. His body sank as his head lay back, resting on the back of the chair.  He was sound asleep, mouth wide open, for the full two hours I was there (and maybe longer).

Lesson: When the opportunity presents itself, take a nap.

Keeping these lessons in my back pocket, I’m raising my mug. Cheers to you for a wonderful 2012!

Better late than never.

Interested in reading other blog posts about new year lessons? Here are a few of my recent favorites: