By John Pierce

Some people have accused me of beginning every day by participating in a coffee ritual at the closest Panera Bread Company. That’s a barefaced lie, of course.

They are closed on Christmas day.

Early morning hours accompanied by hazelnut coffee are the makings of productivity. The day is new and the mind is refreshed.

The coffee shop provides just enough activity without being distracting (usually) from the tasks at hand. And observing human behavior there (uh, here) sometimes gets worked into my writings.

For example, the coffee station reveals that taste is highly individualized. Panera affirms such personalization on a sign above the stash of sweeteners and containers of dairy options: “Cup it. Stir it. Mix it. Sip it. Enjoy coffee the way YOU like it.”

For some customers, it should also say: “Don’t take forever. This is not a chemistry experiment.”

We regulars, however, have created dance-like moves that allow for more than one of us to fill our cups with the right mixture of coffee and crème (and sugar or another sweetener for those who like to ruin a good cup of coffee in that way).

We do-si-do around each other, since not everyone knows that crème goes in the cup before the coffee to avoid stirring — and so the guilt-ridden can add a little decaf to each refill.

So here are the conclusions I have presented so far:

Mornings are the best time to work — because that’s the time of day I find most productive.

Sugar or other sweeteners ruin a cup of coffee — because I don’t like sweetened coffee.

Crème should go in the cup ahead of the coffee — because that is my way of doing it.

If everybody just did everything like I do it, there would be no problems.

Such an attitude might work well for hermits. But for those who live in community (families, churches, larger society) it is that which makes for a holy (or holier-than-thou) mess.

Sinatra may have been the best, but he was not the lone voice belting out “My Way.”

It seems that many set up their own ways of viewing and doing things — from politics to work habits to worship styles to coffee taste — as the standards for all others.

However, a sign of maturity is our ability and willingness to separate our personal preferences from what we declare to be the only valid perspective for all persons.

In fact, our lives and our communities are enriched when distinctions between “my way” and “the only way” are made and even celebrated. (But the crème does go in first.)



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