Coffee-Shop Joe


I think of him as Coffee-Shop Joe. A small-frame man with a pleasant face and a bald head, he appears sixty to sixty-five. Dressed casually, in jeans and a long-sleeve shirt, he always sits cockeyed at the same small table in the coffee shop I frequent, with his back wedged against the corner behind him. A book is in his hands, and a mug in front of him. He’ll take a sip, his attention briefly raised, and then turn the page and lower his gaze to continue reading. Strange; he never seems truly engaged in what he’s doing–more an actor, and the book a prop. He appears caught in a ritual that’s perpetuating itself. I see him only briefly on my way to work, through the windows of the coffee shop. The time is five-thirty. I stop at the drive-thru, pick up my first coffee of the day, and then pull away. Joe seems shrouded in mystery. What compels a man to be reading a book in a coffee shop at this early hour?


As I picked up my coffee today, I noticed that Joe wasn’t there. His small table was empty. I wondered why, and punctuated my surprise with an involuntary humph.  A few fleeting assumptions crossed my mind: Perhaps Joe had wakened early and already come and gone. Perhaps he was home, sick in bed with the flu. Perhaps he was visiting a friend out of town, or tending to his elderly parents. The perhaps that didn’t cross my mind was revealed to me a few days later, when I inquired via one of the employees at the coffee shop. Joe had died. His body had been found cold and lifeless in the boarding house where he’d lived. Another fact surfaced a few days later: Only one book was found in his room. Strange how life can hit you; and how death can seem a rumour.

Why do I relate this fictionalized account of a man who I actually do see on my way to work? And what could this possibly have to do with the Law of Attraction and achieving our dreams and goals? Am I being maudlin? Or trying to shock people into action before it’s too late? No, not at all. My reason is this: I want to remind people to truly live, here and now! Sometimes we become so entranced by the daily rigors of life that we forget that every day is a new day. And that every day comes but once. Under the mesmerizing spell of calendars and daily planners, we often live as though months and years are guaranteed. They are not.

On some level, many of us may identify with Coffee-Shop Joe;  as though we recognize a version of him within ourselves. Do we not sometimes live as though we’re putting in time? Or thwart our dreams by pretending they’re not really that important? And do we not sometimes retreat into the false safety of shadows, and settle for less than we deserve? Deep in our heart, however, we realize that time is passing; that we desire more of life; that an interest or passion or longing is begging to be expressed. Our dreams–which are only truly important if they hold meaning to us–come in every size and shape and form imaginable. Some of them might include:

  • Building a cabin in the woods.
  • Writing our first book.
  • Visiting Paris in the spring time.
  • Skinny dipping at a local lake.
  • Buying a one-way ticket to…?
  • Retiring early, and leaving the nine to five.
  • Beginning an exercise program.
  • Eating more healthful foods.
  • Sailing around the world.
  • Finding the life partner for whom we’ve longed.
  • Performing a song on stage for the first time.
  • Running with the bulls in Pamplona, Spain.
  • Skydiving or parasailing.
  • Visiting the Great Pyramids.
  • Flying over Mount Everest.
  • Learning a second language.
  • Beginning a new career.
  • Helping someone else achieve a life-long dream.

There is good news, however, even if we must abide by Life’s Rule, which states that Death leaves no survivors–at least in human form. Still, we may triumph. How? By living now, dreaming now, and making the most of our time now! Now is our day in the sun; our chance to sing, dance, rejoice, be grateful, make love, give of our love, and truly live the time of our life! We need not settle…ever! Do we not owe it to ourselves to wake up and smell the coffee?

Dare to dream (and care for one another).

With heartfelt regards,


Copyright © – 2020 – R. Arthur Russell

P.S. Please share this article if you enjoyed it. If you’d like to view my latest book (This Taste of Flesh and Bones–released September 8, 2020), press here. May it help you in your spiritual journey. 🙏🙏

Thank You” & “Note to Publishers