As the guy behind the counter of a little coffee shop in a quaint Texas town, I get a unique view not only through the big glass front windows, but also into the lives of everyday quaint town Texans. More often than not, looking outward leads to reflecting inward.
As the westward leaning sun stretches the shadows to the street, there is a certain time where it seems dark inside compared to the brightly reflecting sidewalks and buildings. It is at this time that many silhouettes have walked in the front doors, greeted with a general “Good afternoon!” It is not until after they have stepped out of the radiance that we can discern the face. If it is a familiar friend, there is usually an “Oh, hello! I couldn’t tell it was you.”
It was one of those bright afternoons. We were wrapping up a conversation with some regulars and, as they opened the door to leave, I punctuated our fleeting conversation with a simple, “Give it to God.” Not being able to see a man who had entered and stood in the light, I was caught off guard with an empirical “Amen!”
After welcoming the familiar stranger as he stepped forward into a new conversation, we learned his name was St. John. As the deeply religious and peaceful man was about to carry on down the road, I could not help but ask, “One more question, St. John. Are you a saint?”
“Of sorts,” he replied with uplifted lips and wise eyes. Exiting into the luminescence, he turned back and added, “You never know who is going to walk through the doors.”
We happen to be studying the Gospel of St. John in church, so the interaction seemed peculiarly anointed. My wife and I looked at each other and reflected on the meaning of his statement, “You never know who is going to walk through the doors.” Was he really a saint? An angel? A regular guy on the road who knew how to mess with our heads? Jesus? A guy who walks around giving millions to unsuspecting small business owners?
But it was true, you would be surprised who all has come through little old Cisco, Texas. We have fed and refreshed rock bands on their way to SXSW or passing through on tour, British Parliamentarians, the Crockin’ Girls, writers, and who knows who we didn’t recognize! Wouldn’t it be amazing for hometown hero Dash Crofts to walk out of the afternoon light and pick up my guitar as a hummingbird flits by on the summer breeze?
Well, it wasn’t Dash or Willie that came through the doors the very next day, but another person I only dreamed about sharing our windows’ view of Cisco with. A traveling woman accidentally stopped off the highway in Cisco and was sent downtown by a kind and thoughtful cashier at the Flying J. And in through our doors walks the executive editor of Texas Monthly. You never know who is going to walk through the doors, and even when they do, you don’t know who they are sometimes, or who they represent. When I found out she was the face of the magazine that taught me as a kid how amazing our state is, I turned into that excited kid and blabbed her ear off about how wonderful Cisco is.
St. John’s advice is wisdom to do business by. You never know when a food critic, a person who rates restaurants on Yelp or Trip Advisor, a famous musician (or even one who will be in the coming years), politician, or other type of celebrity will walk in. Serve them all excellence. Treat them all like royalty, so that when royalty walks in, they feel at home.
But there is something that feels, in the way that intuition pricks and prods, just a little off about that. In worldly ways, we like the attention, and it is really fun serving people of worldly importance. In the Gospel of St. John, Jesus is not striving for five stars. He strove to serve Truth, knowing that many people have no taste for such food. He did not position himself for a great write up in the history books, but rather to change the history of individuals, families, and the patterns of their faithful lives. I cannot imagine Jesus traveling out of his way to sit down and sing psalms with the greatest rocker of his time. I can picture his joy at broken hearts healing, the weak becoming strong, the lost becoming found – and the songs that overflow from such miracles.
St. John’s advice is wisdom to live life by. Treat everyone like royalty, not because they might be, but because the way God made us, each of us are made to be. Perhaps sometimes we just need to be an anonymous silhouette for a moment as the table is being set, before we sit down to break bread.
After coming to the conclusion that our friendly saint was not reminding us that anyone could be a celebrity or critic, but that everyone that comes through that door IS a celebrity to us – another lady walks in. This woman was from Puerto Rico and had a rich accent and great posture. As she entertained me by allowing me to practice my conversational Spanish, she dropped my jaw when she said in her native tongue, “Nunca se sabe quien viene a traves de tu puerta.” Assuming I didn’t understand, she repeated in English, “You never know who is going to come through your door.”
I smiled, thinking of everyone who I see on a weekly, monthly, and yearly basis. “Yes I do. You came through my door, and that’s really all that matters.”