to: the coffee cup on the stairs
Every morning there is a cup of coffee on the stairs.
Rain, shine, early or late, there it is--waiting for me to come downstairs and begin my day. Susan, the lady I live with (which is another story), never fails to leave it for me.
The tradition began a cold morning in January when I ran out of coffee and she assumed we’d just share a pot for the morning. I ran out in the winter and despite new bags of coffee and my lapses in residency, she always left a coffee cup for me on the stairs.
She never asked me if I wanted any or even how I took it--she just knew (black and filled to the brim, every morning).
There were days I felt swallowed up by the world around me--I felt as if I was running on autopilot and the voices around me were the whirring of the engine. To know that that coffee cup was sitting there every morning brought me an unexpected sense of solace. That coffee cup served as my constant in a world of change this past year-- through the changing of my major, the changing of jobs, the changing of friends.
Generally, steadfast people stand behind steadfast acts. People who are steadfast like this are noticeable--when everyone is stirred by circumstances, they’re standing back watching the wind move the water. When you get bad news, they’re the people you call. When you need someone to do a favor for you, they’re the people you text. They aren't always vocal, but you know they're there.
Susan, at seventy-six years old, was the steadfast person standing behind a world of steadfast acts for me this year. Leaving a coffee cup on the stairs. Turning on the porch light for when I came home late. Giving me a box of cookies every time she returned from a trip. She established steadiness despite our very different seasons of life.
I assumed because of her age she’s just learned things change and there’s no point in losing your mind over it all. But truly she’s just as busy now at seventy-six as she was at twenty-six, and yet she’s still as steady as ever.
I wish I was as steady as her--untouched by the shifts and turns of life. I know she isn't always this way--but her faithfulness in showing up for me every morning in this small, seemingly insignificant act of kindness, steadies me.
A sense of steadiness draws people back to churches, addictions, old relationships, dead-end jobs. These places bring familiarity--comfort. We think maybe if we hide in them long enough, they’ll never end. We begin to think that maybe if we settle on something definitively, life will lose its edge and we’ll lose our anxiety.
But just when one change ends, another is sure to begin.
I’ve tried to hold onto a lot of things in life--a sweet relationship, a perfect reputation, even my seemingly strong faith. It wasn’t until I began to lose people and doubt God that I realized all we ever have to return to is Jesus. The little things --the cups of coffee, the porch lights, the pebble driveway--they’re all kind reminders that one day all these small semblances of steadiness will end too. The little things remind me of the only lasting, truly steadfast thing in this life --Jesus. I'm grateful for the routines and patterns because they steady me in the small. But I'm even more grateful for God because when nothing else works, he's already waiting for us.
Whatever shifts, changes, and moves you--I hope you remember that. And even if you don't, you'll run of options eventually and return. Maybe you'll be twenty-six, maybe you'll be seventy-six, but eventually we all have to return.