Friendships Comes in Different Sizes

 

The other day I found myself passing though a nearby coffee shop. At a small table near the door sat two white-haired gentlemen – one significantly older than the other. On the wooden desk before them sat scattered papers and other reading materials.

As other customers came and went, the two friends sat across from each other on an island of calm as the world busily rushed by around them.

Hearing my order called, I turned to gather my coffee from the barista and took a seat across the room. As a continuous stream of people came and went from the coffee shop, the two men remained in their self-defined cocoon of solitary existence.

Sipping my drink and gathering my thoughts for the day I kept finding my attention returning to the two men across the room. Both were happy, cheerful, but serious about their friendship. The each leaned towards each other as they spoke, the motion simply used to indicate respect and interest. These two men truly enjoyed each other’s company.

My attention, as it does, returned to my own thoughts for a few moments until a casual glance to the wooden table revealed something special between the two – the younger man had begun reading aloud to the older man from a large book.

We’ve all seen it – the unmistakable warmth that radiates from people who truly love to be around each other. The atmosphere surrounding the wooden desk in the small coffee shop was no exception. Tired eyes sparkled and smiles gently created rippling waves across each other’s faces.

I thought about how the one man was helping the other – reading aloud to him. As we grow older, the world locked behind the small letters encased between the covers of book or magazine become more difficult to untangle. But our thirst for unscrambling the code before our eyes is continuously driven by our lifelong desire to never stop learning.

To see one friend helping another in this manner was simply touching. Most people are hardwired to help others – our hearts easily tugged or influenced by those in need. But the action of making something happen can easily be relegated to a long list with a heading called ‘one-day’.

Speaking steadily, the one friend continued to read to the other. A simple action of one reading to the other was a wonderful example of one person opening their heart to another in need. We never really know where our opportunities lay, but we do know they are all around us. Our task is to be listening with not only our ears, but with our eyes and heart – and then act.

My thoughts in order, I excused myself from the table where I sat alone with my thoughts and began walking towards the exit. Pausing as if only to capture a taste of the goodness radiating from the two men, I noticed the older man leaning in more closely, his head nodding, his attention deepening as the words leapt off the pages.

Returning to my world, the one filled with deadlines, places to be, and products and services to be delivered, I smiled knowing that all is good with the world – and all I needed to do is stop by for a cup of coffee to be reminded all of such.

– 30 –

 

 

 

 

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Sugar Water, Ethnicities, and American History

 

At first I was confused. Why would so many people be upset at a commercial that aired during last week’s Super Bowl game? And the sponsor was Coca-Cola? How could an advertising message about carbonated water and syrup be offensive?

Then I clicked the link on my computer screen.

Soft, elegant lighting filled the screen. Beautiful faces began appearing before my eyes. And, beneath the visuals, the song “America the Beautiful” began to play.

But it is apparently right there – as the lyrics progress along – where so many people became upset. The voices began melding from one language to another. English, which was represented, simply became another part of a palette representing a global variety of ethnicities.

As the streaming video came to a close I found myself wondering if I’d missed something. Was there an offensive undertone I missed? Could there be a subtext to the visuals I am just not smart enough to notice?

Then I scrolled down to the comments posted below the video – and suddenly found myself awash in vitriolic language.

One poster felt insulted that “America the Beautiful” was sung in any language but English. Pointing to the fact that English has always been the accepted “official” language, it was affront to insulting all those who settled our nation.

Another felt by using different languages, Coca-Cola was eroding something akin to “Americanism.”

I paused and leaned back from the keyboard trying to digest what I was reading.

Best I remember my American history our nation is – and always will be – comprised of a wide variety of ethnicities, religions and orientations. As a matter of fact, if you were to walk down the streets of Galveston one hundred years ago, you might very well hear singing inside one home in one language only to walk another block to be welcomed by voices in yet another language.

Yes, the birthright of Galveston may very well be how its DNA continues to hold the very principles of what attracted people to our shores in the first place: diversity.

Historically speaking, Galveston is many times identified Ellis Island of the South. During the largest waves of immigration to the United States, Galveston ranked right behind Ellis Island in the welcoming of people to the New World. And while many spoke English, most did not. “Come as you are” may as well been painted across the entrance for all to see.

But the little thing about where they started life did not stop them from coming ashore and making a new life for themselves and their families. Just a quick drive around our island reveals a place rich in the culture and history nearly every ethnic and racial background. I’d challenge you to find another place in the United States with such a tremendous blend of ethnicity, religion beliefs, and orientations per square mile.

Maybe it is the island mentality of “we’re all in this together” or how we just don’t tolerate those who harbor once popular, yet ultimately false, stereotypes of our neighbors.

While I don’t admit to knowing all the answers, I do believe this unique mix of intercultural dependency has worked its way into the Galveston DNA of today.

Look around our community. Sure, we are not perfect, but we look and sound much more like the beautiful faces selling the world’s largest most popular carbonated beverage than not.

And that, my friends, makes me want to sing.

 

– 30 –