Bookstore coffee

Can you write about humility and still be humble? I think so.

Tripping out in the local bookstore — no drugs or pets allowed

I hope we’ve not descended so far into the muck of mudslinging and domineering power grabs that we can’t still write and live centered in a kind heart and a thoughtful mind.

I stop by the Barnes and Noble Starbucks coffee bar nearly every night. It’s a bit of a ritual. After a while you notice the regulars. Some are students, or maybe the occasional tutor sneaking in to claim her piece of camouflaged chalkboard. But being a bookstore, many of the regulars tend to be quiet folks. Studious, contemplative, polite. Some, like me, are older.

The older ones tend to notice. They see who comes in night after night, or who is considerate or respectful. Things like that. They go about their way quietly, but they’re noticing along the way. That’s their way.

There are things that older people think about. Things other than their latest aches and pains, or how to get their groceries up the stairs. Like what kind of car to drive. Because cars can create distance. Younger people see cars as a statement. A way to stand out, to be an individual. Many older people do, too. But some don’t.

A minister once told his wife they’d be buying a Ford Taurus. He didn’t want to create false impressions with the faithful. She wanted a Cadillac or a Lincoln. Because she craved the status, while he held out for a more modest way to shake hands with the flock. No fancy gold rings.

Anyway, at the bookstore we leave the cars outside. So we end up using other methods to help keep the distance to a minimum. And surprisingly, it’s not books.

It starts with kindness. Smiling at someone. Saying hi, telling them you’re glad to see them. Because that’s how you start building neighbors, building community. By noticing.

Sometimes a simple smile, a kind look into the eyes, or just saying “Hi” is all it takes to change the world.


Unless you live in a small town kind of place, it’s pretty hard to build community these days. There are too many rude drivers, gated communities and pushy travelers. All that pushiness is too much. The jamming and cramming has a way of breaking us, and squeezing us into isolation.

Community these days is often only found through scouting, or volunteering, or the kid’s soccer and ballet practice, or the highly scheduled, tightly managed church service.

I’ve noticed that certain groups and ethnicities fight against the tide. Hispanics will spend the whole day with their entire family at the park. Or get together and eat lunch at the cemetery. For hours. But that’s an effort most of us refuse to undertake.

As for me, well, I don’t like to dress in ways that make me ‘look’ successful. It seems a bit anti-social. My new car is a 12 year old 2005 model. I just don’t want the distance. By keeping that gap narrow, it’s a bit easier to relate, to be taken at face value.

That’s one reason I’ve stayed in construction for so long. Your work speaks for itself, for the way you live. It shows. That’s partly why people in the trades tend to be more genuine and honest. Those qualities mean far more to some of us than money or power or popularity.

I’m not sure if that’s what it takes to be humble. But something tells me it helps.