Tag Archive | observation

Coffee shop witness.

My heart was touched today by an unexpected kindness I was blessed to be witness to . . . I went to the coffee shop to write, I wasn’t intending to document my time there, sometimes we choose what to write, sometimes we write what chooses us.


I’m watching the world from a cozy corner of the coffee shop. On hot days like this everyone orders iced coffees and teas, except the older folk, they seem to be sticking to good old hot coffee, nothing fancy. I’m glad they do, a mocha frappucino just doesn’t have the delightful aroma only a freshly brewed cup of coffee can hold.

It’s busy today. Usually I make a hasty retreat home when all the tables are filled and the line is long, but today the people have captivated me. I don’t wish to speak to them mind you, just watching them suits me fine. It’s kind of a hobby I suppose you could say. You learn a lot about human nature by observing the people around you.

I feel like a documentarian hidden from some undiscovered tribe in some far off mountain jungle, taking notes for what will be a fascinating new Discovery Chanel exclusive. Except if I was, I think I’d just leave them be, why risk them being invaded by what we call humanity. Perhaps our world has me feeling a bit jaded today, I wouldn’t mind being part of a tribe far removed from civilization to be honest, it’s getting difficult to find much civility these days.

Enough with the noises in my own mind . . . A woman just walked in, she looks a bit disheveled and a lot perturbed, sort of how I look after cleaning house all morning actually. She rolled her eyes and sighed heavily as she took her place in line. She isn’t the only one here with their grumpy face on, it’s a shame, I wonder if they realize what a beautiful day it is. Maybe they are jaded as well.

A middle-aged man trying unsuccessfully to look like a younger version of himself just took out his earbuds to ask why there aren’t more people behind the counter. There are four of them back there, two on the registers and two making drinks. I don’t think there’s enough elbow room for another. It looks like the grumpy lady is leaving. Only three people left in front of her too. I’m going to whisper a prayer for her, she needs a blessing today. Maybe two.

Ah, loud talking cell phone man has made an entrance. There is always a loud talking someone on a cell phone these days. It seems he has a Dr. Appointment a 3:00 to get his cholesterol checked and needs to stop by the store for some bread. He has plans for the weekend so he won’t be able to make it even though he really wanted to be there. For some reason I think loud cell phone man is fibbing. He’s probably going to forget the bread.

Oh, grumpy lady has returned, she still looks annoyed, but with one person in line now maybe she’ll stay long enough to order. She keeps looking at her phone and frowning at it, she can’t seem to keep her foot from tapping. There is an air of expectant worry about her. Maybe three blessings today would be best.

I find myself drawn to one girl in particular, a lovely young lady so self-conscious about her weight she draws attention to it by tugging and shifting her clothes with every breath. She has no idea she is the most beautiful girl in the room. She noticed me looking and tried to shrink into the wall. I smiled, but I don’t know if she saw me. Her clothes and bright red hair seem to scream for attention, but her eyes don’t reflect the same need. I hope someone tells her she’s beautiful today.

Everyone not completely glued to an electronic screen of some sort is looking toward the homeless man who just came in. He makes his temporary home behind the strip mall around the corner, I’ve seen him here before. He’s waiting in line to ask for some water. Depending on who answers and what kind of day they are having he may not be given any.

Sophia, formerly known as grumpy lady, has just picked up her tea, I would have thought she was a coffee drinker. You just never know. She is watching the homeless man as well. The girl at the register just turned him away.

Several minutes have passed since the homeless man was told if he was not a paying customer he would have to leave. I had to stop watching and writing for a spell. People surprise me sometimes. When Sophia saw him turn to leave she reached out for his arm. When he looked up from the floor she offered her drink to him, she said, “I haven’t taken a drink yet.”

He shook his head no, but she smiled and he accepted the kindness. I found myself wiping my eyes as he walked out the door. Sophia returned to the line she seemed so frustrated with before. There were four people ahead of her, every one of them let her pass to the front. The girl behind the register said, “You know, you can’t help them all.” Sophia handed her a five dollar bill and said, “No, but you could have helped him.” Still wiping my eyes I smiled at her as she walked by, she smiled back. A man sitting a few tables from the door got up and opened it for her. I thanked God for getting to those blessings so quickly.

I’ve learned things are not always what they seem, people are often more than we expect them to be, sometimes they are less. Sometimes they just need someone to be kind, to look past their grumpy expression, their weight, their manner of dress, their color, their status, their extroverted nature or their introverted nature, and see the person beneath it all.

I love sitting here at the coffee shop, just watching the people.

Raising Potential Writers

A good writer is first a good reader . . .

William Faulkner once said, “Read, read, read. Read everything trash, classics, good and bad, and see how they do it. Just like a carpenter who works as an apprentice and studies the master. Read! You’ll absorb it. Then write. If it is good, you’ll find out.”

Introducing children to the world of literature is one of the greatest gifts you can give them, regardless of whether or not writing is in their future. Before they can read, read to them, help them fall in love with words.

“Reading is to the mind what exercise is to the body.” Sir Richard Steele

Books captivate and spark imagination. Once they begin to read, they begin to learn, let the masters be their teachers. When I was six years old I read The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway, I was enraptured by the tale and soon sat down to write a story of my own. Some children seem to be born with a story within them, just waiting to be told.

“The difference between the right word and the nearly right word is the same as that between lightning and the lightning bug.” Mark Twain

Teach them to speak properly. If they are to write, they must know how to speak, and speak well. The proper use of words and a good vocabulary will only serve to enhance every aspect of their writing as well as their future relationships and employment opportunities. This is something you can do from the time they are babies, baby talk can be fun when it’s time to have fun, but I’m a firm believer that children need to be spoken to in the way we want them to one day speak.

Encouragement will foster confidence; too much encouragement can lead to disappointment, reserved honesty is sometimes best. I would never tell my children something was wonderfully written if it were not, instead, I would find the good in it, then offer suggestions for the parts that could use some attention. Read what your child writes and tell them you want to read more, your enthusiasm will fuel their own.

“There is only one trait that marks the writer. He is always watching. It’s a kind of trick of the mind and he is born with it.” Morley Callaghan

Teach them to see the world around them, help them become constant observers. Inspiration comes in many forms; sometimes the most insignificant of things will lead us to the most significant thought. It teaches them to be aware of themselves and all that surrounds them. It teaches there is so much more to be seen than most people realize, they’ll learn to see what others may not, they’ll experience so much more of life when they learn to look beyond the ordinary.

Two of my four children are writers, amazing writers, they are all avid readers and eloquent speakers as well. When they were young, one of their favorite pastimes was Mad Libs. Without realizing it, they were learning with each silly story. Before my daughter was five she knew what adjectives and pronouns were, she knew the difference between a verb and an adverb. They learned new words and how to spell them through family games of Scrabble.

I often sat with them, pen and paper in hand, and we wrote stories together, taking turns, paragraph by paragraph. Here they learned the proper usage of grammar and punctuation, they learned to be creative. They learned to show, not tell. They found their own voices within the words they penned to the page. Looking back on their earliest writing brings both smiles and tears, their innocence spilled upon page after page, they are some of my most treasured possessions.

“Advice to young writers? Always the same advice: learn to trust your own judgment, learn inner independence, learn to trust that time will sort the good from the bad including your own bad.” Doris Lessing

I encouraged them to keep journals, it’s important to have a place to write anything and everything. To me, it is in the pages of a journal where you learn the most about who you really are. There can be no self-expression without a sense of self.

I taught them to never throw away what they’ve written, even if they thought it wasn’t the greatest, I urged them to tuck it away and maybe someday revisit and rework, or at the very least, look back on to see how far they’ve come. One of my greatest regrets as a writer is the loss of work I deemed unworthy at the time.

As teenagers, I encouraged them to write often, offering critiques and advice along the way. Constructive criticism can be a difficult thing to take in the beginning; they learned to grow from it. They found online writing groups and sought out those teachers willing to take time and become a part of their journey as they wrote their way into each new chapter of their lives.

Now, as adults, they continue to write as they pursue other dreams and opportunities. Their ability to express themselves in both the written and spoken word is remarkable and rarely goes unnoticed. It wasn’t my intent to raise writers, my goal was to teach them the importance of words, language, and expression. The words we say follow us through life, they can open doors or they can close them.

I place great value on words, they are how we let the world know who we are, what we stand for, what we desire, need, and cherish in life. Their worth is immeasurable. Teaching a child the wonder of words, not just how to say them, but how to feel them and bring them to life, is as I said, a gift.

Crystal R. Cook