By Kenneth Justice
“Is he really going to keep talking about bagels?” She whispered. I looked at the time and he had been talking about bagels for more than forty five minutes.
~ This past weekend I was sitting at a coffee house in Atlanta and met a fellow blogger who loves bagels. Back in the 1970’s the man hitchhiked to New York from Atlanta to stay with a friend in Brooklyn; and it was there where he first met the bagel;
“I’d of course eaten bagels in Atlanta as a child, but I didn’t know that those weren’t really bagels” he said, “It was in Brooklyn where I found bagel shops on every corner and I learned that there was a difference between real bagels….and all the imitation ones they sell at grocery stores”
For the better part of the next hour the man talked about bagels;
—) he talked about coming back to Atlanta and searching for the perfect bagel
—) he shared his frustrations regarding the lack of good bagels in Atlanta
—) he talked about how he began cooking bagels out of his mom’s kitchen
Garlic bagels, onion bagels; bagels, bagels, bagels
At one point in the conversation my traveling mate leaned over to me and whispered in my ear, “Is he really going to keep talking about bagels?” she asked, and I can only imagine what the other people in the coffee house were thinking; ‘that bagel guy is a nut and is clearly out of his mind’
Yet as I sat there quietly, listening to him educate me on all things bagel…..I felt at peace. I was down there in Atlanta to meet with people, to connect with readers and fellow bloggers and I wasn’t in a hurry to get anywhere; I had a couple more coffee houses to visit but I wasn’t pressed for time.
So much of my life is busy; deadlines, appointments; rush, rush, rush. Had I run into the bagel guy during my normal working hours back home, I might not have given him the time of day. And so it was nice not having to be anywhere; I didn’t mind listening to him talk about bagels……because even though I’m clearly not THAT into bagels; I appreciated the passion which exuded from him regarding the subject. Passionate people always impress me.
And then a funny thing happened, at about the 50 minute mark of the bagel conversation he suddenly switched gears and began talking about spirituality, “I normally wouldn’t talk about this subject with a stranger” he said, “but I feel comfortable enough to tell you this”
And then for the next forty five minutes we talked about topics that really interested me; eastern mysticism, Christianity, religion, philosophy, and more. We talked about his experiences and frustrations with different religious groups and he shared with me stories about the community of people that have always been there for him throughout his life…….but the conversation would have never occurred if not for bagels.
I could be wrong; but I believe there is a tendency within Western Culture to pre-judge people; we look at someone and if they don’t fit into a particular model of someone that interests us than we tend to pass them by,
—-) If someone is dressed funny than we turn our eyes away
—-) If someone looks like a ‘nerd’ than we search for ‘cool’ people to hang out with
—-) If someone talks funny or doesn’t fit in; then we tend to ignore them
Whether we are in grammar school, high school, college, at work, or hanging out at Church on Sunday morning……the popular and ‘cool’ people always get surrounded by the masses……and the bagel guy gets left in the corner all alone.
Everyone wants to sit at the head of the table with the President….and nobody wants to sit at the foot of the table with the janitor. It’s kind of like during those State of the Union speeches that Presidents give every so often; the cameras pan the crowd and show everyone trying to rush up to the President to shake his/her hand or pat them on the back as they walk by…….everyone wants to be around the popular people……..and the bagel guy gets left in the corner all alone.
I’ve sat with a lot of people who were bullied during their youth; the stories are always tragic and I almost always inevitably get really pissed off at the injustice in the world that allows bullying to still occur at schools and in school yards. And as much as I want to hold principals and parents accountable (and they should be held accountable) there’s actually a really simple solution to end bullying that is staring at us all in the face; the ‘popular’ kids could stop leaving the bagel guy in the corner all alone.
Instead of huddling together in little packs of popularity; the athletes and ‘popular’ kids could stop showing so much partiality in who they allow into their little click, and instead, start inviting the bagel guy to hang out with them.
A friend of mine and I visited a church many years ago and the senior pastor of the church learning of who I was instantly invited me out to lunch later in the week…….but ignored my friend altogether. My friend didn’t fit into the mold of what that particular church considered to be ‘cool’. And while I’m not trying to pick on that particular senior pastor……I couldn’t help but think how that kind of attitude would definitely turn a lot of people off from that church.
Just a few thoughts as I was sipping my coffee this morning, and if you happen to enjoy discussing bagels and you live in Chicago or Pittsburgh, I will be coming to coffee houses in your cities this month! Although, it won’t bother me at all if you don’t want to talk about bagels; I don’t really know very much about them other than that they taste good with cream cheese.
Categories: Culture & Society