Hitting the Bottom

“Life is the dregs!”

The old preacher sat across the table from me staring into his almost finished cup.  The tiny amount of liquid that remained at the bottom clearly had some stray coffee grounds chasing around in it.  He tipped it up to his lips one more time and let the tepid stuff slip past his pursed lips.

“Pah!”  He made a motion as if to spit it back into the cup.  Then, remembering suddenly where he was, he forced it down his gullet, grimacing as it went.  “The dregs, I tell you!”

If it had been yesterday, I wouldn’t recall it any more clearly.  Thirty-five years have come and gone, but still I remember my surprise at the vitriolic words that flew from the aging parson’s mouth.  I kept my tongue, even as I silently disagreed with him.

I was twenty-one years old and knew better than any old man what life was about.  Hadn’t I spent the last two years living on peanut butter and day-old bread?  Hadn’t I paid my dues to woo and win the most beautiful girl in my little town?  The Lovely Young Lady was a cheap date, to be sure.  She was satisfied with a Number 3 burger at the local Sonic Drive-In and a walk along the creek before sitting a minute or two with me on a swing beside the sidewalk in the park.  I wasn’t living high on the hog, but I knew what life was about and it wasn’t any dregs.

Life was the full cup of Joe!

As I said, thirty-five years have come and gone since that evening.  The old preacher lived to a bitter end, dying suddenly in a car crash, still complaining the last time I saw him about a number of things, not the least of which was his son’s terminal illness.  I understand his perspective a little better now.

But, just for a minute, I want to talk a little about something I call living poor.  I may regret it.  Many of the older generation, especially those who lived through the Great Depression and right after, lived in a manner they called frugal.  Frugal to them meant that you didn’t waste anything.  The problem is that often when you live frugally, you begin to believe that you have nothing, even in the presence of amazing wealth.  I will not belabor the point, but I daresay that most readers at this point are nodding their heads, as they think about a person they once knew who died in poverty in spite of having a large sum of money put by for a rainy day.

There was one trick I learned from my frugal friends.  Buy the Endless Cup Of Coffee at the local diner.  In my hometown, it was a Sambo’s franchised restaurant.  You sat down to the counter and ordered a cup of coffee, as you laid down your quarter.  Then you and your buddies sat and talked into the wee hours of the morning, never spending another dime and never seeing the bottom of the cup in front of you.

It is late as I write this–late on a day that started a very long time ago.  For a few moments earlier tonight, I started to believe that life was the dregs.

For that, I beg your pardon.

There is once more, a full cup of coffee in front of me and I’m remembering the amazing life that has been mine in the closing doorways of the past.  I’m also experiencing the expectation of joyous things to come as the future opens its gates–those gates that lead to the wild unknown.  I tell you, it’s not just the caffeine talking either.  Hardship comes and it goes.  It is just another wayside stopping-off place along the road of life.  If we choose to stay and wallow a bit, we’ll be served the mostly empty cup in which this establishment specializes.  It is a bitter, offensive remnant that contaminates.

Do I believe that life is all sunshine and roses?  It is clear that I don’t.  Do I think that the bad things, the sadness and the pain, the sickness and the hardship don’t matter at all?  Again, the answer is obvious.  Those things come.  They come with some frequency.  And, through the pain, through the hardship, our life goes on.

Through.

I choose to believe in the truth of more to come.  More that we can’t see now.  The Endless Cup has already been filled for us.  There are no dregs here; we have no need to live poor.

Drink up!

You don’t want to miss the next cup!

You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil: my cup overflows.
(Psalm 23:5 ~ NIV)

© Paul Phillips. He’s Taken Leave. 2013. All Rights Reserved.

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