I am sitting at Starbucks in Kingwood, Texas. When I first pulled into the parking lot- which is four rows deep and about as spacious as a restaurant's parking lot- I thought 'surely this isn't all for Starbucks.'
But then I walked in.
And I was totally annoyed.
Not only were those cars all here for Starbucks, apparently each car was filled to maximum capacity. I assume these do-gooders got in their vehicles and went up and down their streets, honking their horns, inviting neighbors through a megaphone to come join them as they stormed the local Starbucks.
And let me tell you, they have taken this place by storm. It's like a zoo in here.
All I wanted was to spend my morning in peace and quiet, but these hooligans have taken over.
There is a table of motor-cycles dudes. And a row of really nice hogs outside. Have you ever seen a gathering of motorcycle dudes in leather, taking over Starbucks on Saturday morning? Eating their muffins, sipping their coffee, revving up their engines for the little boys who are starring with gaping mouths and giddy smiles? It's pretty cute actually.
There is a table of women bloggers. They have never met one another and they are beside themselves, "Oh my gosh! You're Texas Mama? You're Cat lady? You're the simple, simple, simple lady?" "I love your blog!" "You are so funny!" "Isn't this exciting?" They are hugging and laughing and meeting their soul mates. They are about to get serious. They are going to talk about how their blogs are changing the world, or at the very least, how their blogs are changing themselves.
There's a mom and a daughter having coffee right across from me. The girl looks like she's in 9th grade. The mom looks like she is a super model. She is looking intently into her daughter's eyes, leaning in close across the table. The daughter is talking. It's serious. She's not in trouble or sad or anything like that though. She's exploring things out loud and her mom is listening. Nodding. Agreeing. Looking at her girl. And the girl talks without breaks. Using her hands. Pulling on her hair occasionally. Looking her mom in the eyes. Sometimes I catch myself watching them too much. Wondering. Hoping. Asking God to let me be sitting there in 15 years listening to my baby girl... who still loves me, who still wants to talk to me, who is still around and healthy and happy and thinking and dreaming all by herself. My heart races as I watch them. The thoughts of what could ... or could not be... often paralyze me in moments like this. But the thoughts of what could be win; they linger and dance in my mind like wind through the trees on the first day of spring. Something beautiful is happening at their table. But not for the first time. I get the feeling that beautiful happens between this mother and daughter a lot.
There is another table of men and women. All older. In their 70's. One lady is a quadriplegic. Her friends tend to the occasional drool that comes out of the side of her mouth. One on each side of her, they hold her hands the entire time the conversation is happening. And it's a loud and lively conversation. Laughter takes over the room. And the bikers, who are sharing breathing room with the older people, practically sitting in their laps as all of their tables and groups collide- about 25 people- amp up their conversation as they start inter-mingling with the older-people. The strangers sharing their breathing space. Now it feels like a town hall meeting. The kind that happens after everyone has had a few beers and bar-b-que and have forgotten their differences and gathered together instead to shoot the bull and vote on a new town library.
To my right, sitting outside on the patio are a father and son. I know they are father and son because the father, who is about 80 years old said, "Son, I'm buying this week. You go save a table." They do this every week. They've been out there for about an hour now. Sometimes talking and leaning in. Other times, falling back into their chairs, sipping coffee, watching the people file in and out of the store. They laugh. They nod in agreement. They talk about everyday things. And I find myself praying again. Hoping and dreaming again. I don't want to grow old in a place far away from my parents. I want to sip coffee with my mom on Saturdays. I want to watch birds and people and cars drive by with my dad on Tuesdays.
I've never seen so many people crammed into one Starbucks in my life. I've been here for almost two hours now- lost in a whirlwind of people.
When I first walked in, I was annoyed. "GET OUT OF MY STARBUCKS!"
Jeez. You think you can count on one place in this world to be quiet- and then you show up to a city-wide, Kingwood reunion.
But I've learned two things this morning while sitting here.
First, the people of Kingwood, Texas might be the friendliest people I've ever seen. I officially nominate the Starbucks in Kingwood, Texas as the happiest Starbucks in the world.
Second, I've whiled away my morning, two hours now, caught up in these people. And what started out as a minor annoyance has turned into something beautiful in my heart. The place has thinned out now, though three bikers remain and the bloggers are still saving the world one word at a time. There is a remnant of joy in this place. Of community. Of life being shared. There is a remnant of what could be. I've re-learned the significance of togetherness this morning. My friend Lisa said it best when she was describing her house a few months ago, she said she loved that her three daughters had to share a bathroom with her and her husband, because great moments happen when space has to be shared.
You see, I came in annoyed that too many people were trying to share my space this morning. And now I sit here feeling like I've been a part of the best worship service ever. The most beautiful symphony. The greatest U2 concert ever attended. The crescendo that happens when something inside of us soars. It rarely happens alone. Isolated. Even in a beautiful moment of solitude. It rarely captures the intensity of what could be when people co-exist peacefully, happily, joyfully, passionately. Over food. Over wine. At a concert. In a church. After a tragedy. Or just over coffee on a Saturday morning.
What I got this morning was way better than what I actually came here wanting. I will take the noisy, clanky, loud, intensity of community over peace and quiet any day because it means something is right in the world.
And in a world where a lot of things are going wrong right now, we all need glimmers of hope...
that something is still right
I studied the mom and daughter across the way from me for quite a while. They seemed so happy. Sometimes I feel like the messages from other parents about parenting are daunting. "Take advantage now, she's going to hate you when she's a teenager!" "You think two years old is bad? Wait till three hits!" "They never stop sucking the life out of you and don't plan on hearing 'thank-you' either." The staggering phrases puts the holy fear of God in you that once you have a teenager, especially a teenage girl... forget it. You will have a monster on your hand. A monster who happens to hate you. (And I am sure there are many moments when it feels that way... I myself had monstrous moments as a teenage girl and sometimes I am convinced that Annie is the anti-Christ. So I get it.)
But I look at Annie and think, surely you and I are going to love growing up together. Surely we will cuddle. Have girl's days. Talk over milkshakes. Respect and love one another. Maybe she will even come to me and want to talk on Saturday mornings like the mother and daughter I've been watching at Starbucks today.
Well, I finally couldn't take it any longer. I wanted to tell the mom across the way, "Thank you." Thank you for showing me an example of what a mom and daughter can look like. Thank you for listening to your daughter well. Thank you for doing something right along the way that is making this little girl talk to you like you are the wisest, most trusted, most devoted person in her life. Thank you for giving me hope of what can be. So I went to their table and said, "Excuse me, can I ask you a question? I know this is weird, but are you mother and daughter?..."
And that began a beautiful conversation on motherhood. This precious lady- just an everyday, average, mom working her butt off to love her kids well through Godly parenting- started sharing her secrets with me and even asked her daughter to chime in. We talked for quite a while and I fell in love with them both. And I think you will enjoy them too. So, I've asked Michelle and Remmy to join me for a few blogs on motherhood and daughterhood. Be looking for those interviews in the weeks to come... until then, take hope! There are people doing life well all around us. And that means there is something still right in the world.