Finding Common Ground
I stopped into a coffee shop recently to write for an hour after dropping a friend off at a doctor appointment. It was way earlier than I'd normally be awake, so I got to see how the other half lives (I'm a night owl).
I wish I could tell you about the coffee shop aroma because I'm sure it was fantastic, but I still don't have a sense of smell after having COVID-19 back in November. Even so, I can imagine how it might've smelled.
Intermittent conversation and worship music set the mood. And I was encouraged to see four women with their Bibles open at a nearby table.
A sixty-something-year-old man walked in. "It's another beautiful morning," he said to the barista in a louder voice than my night owl brain would've preferred.
"Yes it is," she said.
"My man died yesterday."
"Who? Oh ... Rush Limbaugh?"
I love that she knew him well enough to figure that out.
"I've been listening to him for thirty-two years. He was my mentor."
"I'm so sorry."
I know how he felt. I'd been feeling pretty melancholy about Limbaugh's death too. And that came a day after CCM artist Carman passed away. Both men were part of my formative years.
After Limbaugh died, I traded texts with a friend who also admitted to feeling blue about his death. I love that I have male friends who admit such a thing.
Most people want to connect with others on a deeper level, so once in a while, we take risks and mention something that really matters to us when talking to people we don't know very well to see if we can find common ground. And if we do find that conversational spark, it's gold. It may even lead to a new friendship.
This is one of the reasons that coffee shop culture fascinates me – so much so that I wrote a book of coffee shop essays called Common Grounds: Contemplations, Confessions, and (Unexpected) Connections from the Coffee Shop. People tend to connect in coffee shops in ways they don't in other places. Something about coffee shops makes people feel more willing to talk to strangers.
One of the stories in "Common Grounds" is about a woman named Sharon who entered a coffee shop I was in and sat down at a nearby table with a friend. She introduced herself to me and began politicking for votes on a singing competition website. I was glad to help her, so I opened a browser and went to the website.
"If I get enough votes," she told me, "I advance in the contest and have a chance to win a $5,000 cruise."
“Are you doing homework?” she asked.
“I’m a writer.”
“Oh, do you have a card?”
I handed her one and she pulled up my website on her tablet. She was thrilled to find out that I wrote for the Christian market.
She handed me her card and the tagline on it said, “God Loves Me Too!”
After she left, I opened my browser and clicked on her song to listen to it. It was a cover of “Mr. Melody” by Natalie Cole. I have never heard Cole’s version, but Sharon’s was quite good – maybe good enough to win. I should probably pull out her card and email her to find out if she did. But I've since moved, so I have no idea where it is.
But the point is, we found common ground by connecting over our art. And I love that. As introverted as I am, I crave meaningful connections. While they never come easy for me, I always love it when they happen
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