I love coffee. It might just be my number one addiction. A good cup of Ethiopian Sidamo coffee. Oh, I can taste it already. But maybe I am in love with the coffee shop culture. Just lazying around, having a cup of coffee and reading the paper. The easy life. The time where I can just sit and be at peace with myself. Having a nice cuppa in a good coffee shop is one of my favourite “small things in life“.
We all have them. It could be reading a good book. Or lying in the arms of someone we love. Maybe it is hearing the laughter of kids having fun. A nice home-cooked meal prepared by loving hands. Sitting around the fire having a beer with friends and making a potjie and pap (traditional food in a black pot and a maize meal dish in South Africa). Watching your team win the World Cup in rugby or Ajax Cape Town beating Kaizer Chiefs again (sorry guys – I was a Seven Stars fan originally). Listening to my music on my iPod while commuting to and from work. Or maybe it is sharing your thoughts and worries with those who you have never met and will most likely never meet. Yes. We all have small things in life. Small things to make the big things tolerable.
The small things in life makes it possible for us to just switch off from the outside world for a little while. It creates a bit of space between you and the reality of the world out there. The world of daily struggles of life and living. It creates some white noise to block off the shouting and crying you hear when you open your ears. It gives us a little breathing space from those things we see and can’t get out of our heads. The world will drive us crazy if we sit still for a minute and think too hard. There are just too many things that are wrong in this world for one mind to handle. For one life to live. These little things in life makes life worthwhile. A stolen moment while we take a breath and recharge our batteries.
Many years ago, back in South Africa, I was enjoying such a moment when it struck me – what is the small thing in life for those who suffer? I was just sitting having a cup of good coffee. Staring out the window at nothing. A newspaper open on the table and my cigarette burning in the ashtray. But I wasn’t smoking and I wasn’t reading. I was just staring. Staring out the window and staring at nothing. My mind was blank. Taking a rest for a little while. That’s when I saw him on the other side of the window.
It was only for a split second. But it felt like a lifetime. He was just walking in the streets. I don’t know where he was going or what he was going to do – I just saw him walking past the window. I didn’t know him and still don’t know who he was. I just saw his face as he looked through the window as he walked past. It was just that split second while he appeared in the window. But it felt as if he stood there and looked at me and the coffee shop for an hour. His face burned into my memory. He eyes asked a thousand questions.
What are you doing? Why are you sitting there? Who are you people sitting there and doing nothing? It wasn’t an expression of distaste. It was just an expression of someone who could not understand what this was all about. I could see that what I doing in that coffee shop was completely foreign to him. No idea why this was my moment. No idea that this was my small thing in life. I was a stranger to him. And my actions even stranger. And it made me think. What is his small thing in life?
He was obviously from the township. I could see it in his face and in his clothes. He was neat. But he had old and worn clothes on. But he walked with pride and a little hop in his step. A sign of people who have suffered before, but who are happy and proud of the job they have today. The life they lived and the future they face. Happy times. And it made me think. What is his small things in life out there in the township? But I knew. I have been there. I have shared the moments. Just not with him.
It is the laughter of the children playing in the streets. Coming home to a warm meal and open friendly faces. Lying in the arms of a loved one. Standing around the fire with the boys while having a braai (barbecue). Watching soccer with friends and hoping Kaizer Chiefs will win this time. Playing music for the girls to dance. Sharing a beer and stories with friends in the shebeen. You know. Those other small things in life.
Yes. We might have been on different sides of the window. But we knew each other. We shared the same small things in life. We all share the same little things in life. Well, most of the time. I have my coffee. My wife has her dancing. (I have two left feet unfortunately). But it does the same for all of us. It let’s us forget about the bad times and the sorrows for a little while. It switches off the lights for just a little while. Recharging the batteries of life so we can start again tomorrow.
I have seen it everywhere I go. I look for it. I hunt for it. Just to steal a moment in their eyes. Those small things in life. Whether it is in the market in Bamako. Or the Green Frog in Lusaka. The Red Sox at Fenway. A night at the pub in London. Coffee in Paris. It’s all the same. We all have our small things in life. It’s just the faces and places that differ.
I would have liked to share a cup of Ethiopian best with that face in the window though. Have a little time to ourselves. Share a moment in life together. Share a small thing in life. And leave – ready to face the world again. Strangers. But not.