There is a place around the corner from us where we get our coffee. We don’t go there everyday as coffee ain’t cheap so we reserve it for when we really feel like something that doesn’t taste like drain water with sugar and milk.
I bring up the coffee shop because of the little Mayan fellow who works there. On the days when he makes my coffee I almost always get some work of art splayed briefly through the foam, I say briefly because I take sugar with my coffee.
Over the last few months I have contemplated this little fella (I know it may sound somewhat impolite to refer to him as the little fella, but he is little in stature and a fact should not be misconstrued as an insult) and his coffee creations. More than a few times I have found one of these marvelous images in my coffee, looked over at his beaming face filled with pride and thought, “Good work mate, but doesn’t it bother you that I am about to dump sugar on top of it and stir?” Recently, with the passing of my nephew Mason, this thought has come to the fore, and its answer has become a more meaningful rule of thumb for life.
One of the ways we as humans measure the worth of things, is by how long they last. By doing so we overlook what makes anything worth having in this life, how much joy it or they might bring us. Times importance is greatly over-valued. Nothing lasts for ever, not us or the things we create. That does not change their worth.
You see, this guy, Rene, who works at the coffee shop around the corner from me and likely gets paid a pittance in relation to Western salaries, is fantastically proud of what he creates, no matter how briefly they exist. And when he creates one of these little works of art for me. I look down at it and smile, and when I look up, he is standing there with a smile twice the size of mine, wonderfully proud of what he has created. It doesn’t seem to matter to him that I am the only person who will likely see it, and it doesn’t matter to him that I am about to pour two sachets of sugar over the top and stir my coffee. He created something beautiful, something he can be proud of. He brightened someones day and made the world a better place by being passionate and bringing something unique into the world. Even if it is for the shortest of moments.
Yesterday he came over to the table where Taunee and I sat and started talking to us. I say talking, but with his broken English and my never there in the first place Spanish it was more like a gesture filled guess-a-thon. Regardless, one thing was clear. He was proud of his creations. He is of Mayan heritage and actually speaks the language, and he lives here in Playa with his wife and little girl. He told me this while scouring his phone for pictures of his creations. Every now and then he would stop what he was saying, give me his phone and with a big smile, say “Planets”, or “Penguin” or some equally unlikely thing to find staring up at you from a latte.
His creations last only briefly, which for something created with so much love and pride can seem like a shame. But his foam pictures are not created to reach the biggest audience possible, they are not created to be enjoyed for all time. They exist briefly, they give him something to be proud of, and they make anyone who gets to experience them feel good, and no matter how brief there is infinite worth in that.
Time is a terrible measure of value. Holly, you created an amazing person and you shared his existence with the world, something you can be very proud of. His time was brief, but from what I can tell, brought infinite happiness to you and those that got to know him. He will be missed greatly because of how great it was to have him, even if it was only for the briefest of moments.
“The important thing is not how many years in your life but how much life in your years.”
~Edward J. Stieglitz