I sit at a small table in the corner of the Barnes and Noble Café, sipping a mocha, thinking, and again losing myself in the comfortable tapping of my keyboard. I’m surrounded by two of my favorite scents in the world: new books and freshly brewed coffee. There’s something exciting about walking through a book store. Every isle, every shelf, is filled with books, which are filled with pages. And all of those pages are filled with words, all expressing the thoughts, ideas, and feelings that were so important to their authors. In a way it’s sad, knowing that no matter how I might try, I can ever have the time to learn all of it, to know all the stories, read all the theories, and try to decide what kind of a person the author was. But even more exciting than the books are the people. In a book, I can read the thoughts and feelings of the author and guess what he might have been like, but in a face, I can see so much more.
Behind the coffee bar is a man who’s probably about thirty. He really knows what he’s doing. He’s friendly with the customers, and seems to be good at watching people. He notices a lot. He’s extremely precise behind the espresso machine, and makes a pretty good mocha in my humble opinion. I also notice what a gentleman he is: the way he politely gets around the girls he’s working with to make sure he’s the one to empty the trash cans or casually makes it to the door in time to hold it open for an older lady keeps bringing a smile to my face. The constant smile in his green eyes makes it hard not to like him.
I see two girls, probably sisters sitting together and talking over their coffee. They’re young, certainly no older than sixteen. They look very much alike and seem to enjoy each other’s company very much. They laugh and smile as they talk, happy just to be together. Once in a while, they seem to come to a more serious topic of conversation, and the smiles fade a little as they thoughtfully consider whatever they may be talking about. But that never seems to last long, and soon they’re back to their light-hearted laughing. I almost wish I was sitting a little closer so I could hear a word or two of their conversation. I wonder what keeps them so cheerful.
There are two men wandering the store together, making a rather odd pair. One seems to be in his fifties or so, he looks very distinguished with his silver hair cut neatly and his black suit pressed perfectly. The other couldn’t be older than twenty-five and wears old blue-jeans and a western-style shirt. His red hair is cut short and is neat enough, but he looks like after shaving everyday for years, he’s missed a day or two, leaving his face scruffy. They stop here and there, the older man pointing things out to the younger, and the younger sounding like he’s doing his best to impress the other. I wonder what brought them together or what their business might be.
Finally, at the table next to me, is an older lady. She looks like she could be in her sixties. Her hair is short and grey, her glasses are thick, and she’s dressed in a striped t-shirt and blue jeans. On the table in front of her are a Bible, a Bible dictionary, and a half-finished throw, crocheted by hand. She’s got headphones on, and is obviously enjoying the music she’s listening to. As she listens, she quietly hums along, working on the throw and stitching in-time with the music. Whenever a song she really likes comes on, she stops working to silently mouth the words and to tap out the beat on her leg. The entire time she has the biggest smile on her face, as if she’s enjoying life and there’s nothing anybody could do to ruin it for her. She even invited me over to listen to a song on her new CD before she left. She was so sweet.
The more I watch, the more different kinds of people come and go. So many people… each with their own lives full of stories and memories. It’s so strange to think about how many things I’ll never know. Just as I can never read every book, I can never stop and talk to every person. I’ll never hear about their triumphs or failures, about what makes them happy or the heartbreaks they may have had, but at the same time, it’s so exciting to realize that God knows it all. He knows the stories of every person who ever lived or will live. He knows all the mistakes we’ll make, and the trials we’ll overcome, whether or not we’ll ever come to know Him personally. And remembering that changes the entire way I look at the people around me. I’m not just looking at crowds of strangers any more, but at people who Jesus bled and died for, people my heavenly Father loves deeply, people who may not even realize how desperately they need Him. Instead of just analyzing them, guessing who they might be or what they might be done or been through, I pray for them: that if they know Him, they might continue to grow closer, and that if they don’t know Him, they might come to. Most of all, I pray that I can know all of these precious people as my brothers and sisters in heaven one day.