It’s a gray, bone-chilling winter morning, the kind of damp dawn that invites me to stay in sweats, curl up on the sofa in front of a crackling fire, and eat freshly baked chocolate chip cookies while watching my latest Netflix addiction, Gilmore Girls. Instead, the ungodly hour of 6:45 a.m. finds me already standing in line at Starbucks. I need to fuel up before continuing my hour-long trek to work. I’m comatose, cold, and cranky.
And it’s a Monday, which magnifies my misery.
But the line is short, thank goodness. There are just two guys in front of me. They are annoyingly chipper and having an animated conversation. When those magical words, “Next!” are called out, they approach the counter and only at this time appear to notice the vast menu on the wall. This creates quite the dilemma.
What shall they have?
Another conversation ensues. They look at the menu, then at each other, and back at the menu. They point, analyze, debate, and discuss. Who knew coffee was capable of triggering such stimulating dialogue? The broad selection of tasty drinks has obviously boggled their senses and they are overwhelmed with the numerous choices before them. Tea or coffee? Hot or cold? Nonfat, decaf, whip or foam? Tall, Grande, or Venti? And what flavor syrup? They must carefully weigh all options before rendering this critical decision.
I want to strangle them.
After several minutes of deliberating the benefits of green tea versus soy milk versus dark chocolate, glory be to God, they finally place their order. I’m about to whip out the words that are perched on the tip of my tongue, “grande soy latte, extra hot, no foam,” when the two men suddenly glance to their left. They’ve just noticed the pastry bar.
“Wait a sec,” they tell the cashier.
As they meander over to peruse the wide selection of breads, scones, and muffins, I hear impatient shuffling behind me. I turn around to see that the line is now snaking towards the front door. Fellow bleary-eyed commuters, in dire need of a caffeine fix, have their arms crossed and lips pursed. They are not happy.
Nor am I. A glimpse at my watch tells me that this delay will cause me to hit the dreaded college traffic, which will add an extra 15 minutes to my already intolerable commute. All thanks to these blithering nimrods, who seem to think that placing a simple coffee order is on par with the Camp David Accord. I fanaticize grabbing each man’s head and clanking them together, like Moe would do to Larry and Curly.
Now the two are pondering poppy seed muffins and banana bread. Babies will be conceived, born, and registered for preschool before these dolts ever complete their order.
And so I start to woolgather, reviewing my weekend. It was a good one. I’d enjoyed an ice-cream outing with my niece on Saturday, participated in a greyhound rescue Meet and Greet in the afternoon, and on Sunday attended church at the usual hour. It had been an amazing service, thanks in part to a videotaped interview featuring Bono, lead singer of the rock band U2. Talking with Willow Creek Community Church pastor, Bill Hybels in Illinois, Bono had championed causes such as debt relief to struggling countries, AIDS, poverty, and world hunger. “Christ won't let you walk away because it's difficult, expensive, and a moral hazard," he stressed. Repeatedly, he emphasized that care and concern for others should not be restricted by boundaries and borders.
I was nodding throughout the entire service, agreeing with everything he was saying, while being duly impressed with his eloquence and passion. I’d always enjoyed U2’s music, but this side of Bono was truly an eye-opener. And then, leaning forward in his chair, he delivered a simple reminder:
“Love Thy Neighbor is a commandment, not a suggestion.”
Like a jolting smack upside the head, Bono’s words come back to me as Larry and Curly finally place their order and prepare to move on. One guy turns around and gives me a sheepish smile.
“Sorry we took so long,” he apologizes.
“Don’t worry about it,” I mumble, feeling very much the hypocrite. How impressed I’d been with yesterday’s message, yet how quickly I’d forgotten it.
Love thy neighbor, indeed. Even at Starbucks.
Nobody ever said it would be easy.