I’m not here because their coffee is one of my favorites. It always tastes like they watered it down to take away the bite. But it offers one of my favorite views: the Downtown Grind, in a building called the Phoenix. There’s a lone worker here, and she moves back and forth from the coffee shop side to the dry cleaner pick up side. No one else is here, and I’ll be surprised if anyone else comes in, but many will go by.
I’m wrong. A man with a Civil War style vest and a beard to go with it comes in and orders a medium coffee, with very good manners I might add. He doesn’t sit down. That’s probably because the Downtown Grind puts on “to go” lids so people can keep moving. I took the lid off of my cup, because I plan to sit and watch and listen. From this window framed year ‘round by white Christmas lights, I see the world pass.
A man with a long backpack walks past the untitled store across the street; it’s decorated with lottery posters saying “Play Here.” He didn’t follow the neon light inside like a bug would, but I wonder if he has before, since he’s wearing bare feet and sandals on a day when people took their scarves and pea coats out. He looks like he would like to find a place to sit called “the Phoenix,” but watching the world would just be a bonus.
A long brown coat walks by with a man inside, and I recognize him as a local reporter who writes about people. A sweatshirt with a man in it walks by, and he looks strangely like the bearded, vested man; with so much variety outside of this window, how do we end up being so much the same? The sweatshirt carries a camera, and I wonder who and what he wants to capture. If he hurries he might catch the bare footed man. If he waits long enough, he might see the smiling Asian lady with pony tails, pushing her cart down the stage in front of me. He might see the tall, dark corner-dancing man who sometimes wears slippers and totes a brown furry puppy backpack.
A police officer walks by, and his flapping ticket pad catches my eye. It makes me feel like I should move my car, even though I’m not parked illegally. People think it’s hard to park here, but that’s just because their understanding of the downtown grind is watered down. It’s not hard to park, but someone with a puppy backpack might stand on the corner near your car.
Jesus wants us to know how much He wants us to resist hanging up lights to make ourselves feel better about the view. He said that, “whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me” (Matt. 25:40). Lots of the least pass by this tall window in the Phoenix.
A man outside the window now walks by with a slow and rhythmic pace, like he’s going to be walking all day. He’s got a pack on his back and a duffel bag around his chest, and he’s talking to himself, because no one else is with him. If he sits down with his backpack and duffel, the pad toting policeman will tell him to move. If he had a cup from the Downtown Grind, he might be allowed to sit at one of their tables …. even though it is too cold for bare feet. The herd of business people who just passed could stop wherever they want or sit wherever they want, because they don’t do things like where pony tails or go out without socks in February.
I wonder if the lady who passes between pressed shirts and pressed coffees all day sees the world passing or if it’s just become wallpaper in her day, like her watered down coffee. Do I see the world passing when I’m not looking out of a big window framed by Christmas lights? What’s in the wallpaper around me? Who’s in the wallpaper?
Maybe I’m alone in this Downtown Grind because this window’s view isn’t always pleasant; maybe there are Christmas lights because it waters down the scene. People feel uncomfortable with ugliness, so it’s our instinct not to go or look there, not to leave the window unframed. If all else fails we might water it down. That way, there’s not a lot of bite.
The lady in pony tails walks by, and I feel like I know her. She’s walking faster than usual, probably because it’s cold. It’s going to get colder tonight and tomorrow and the next day, and there’s no way to water that down.
Do you see the least from the window where you sit?