One early morning back in May, the sun was shining and it was pleasantly warm even at 7.30 in the morning. I was outside the door of the building where I work but I didn’t want to go to my desk this early, so I headed around the corner to a global coffee chain outlet on Botanic. I bought my usual filter and settled down upstairs to do some work.
I love working in coffee houses, I love the ambient noise and the busyness and the pleasant exchanges with baristas who know you and your preferences. It feels….homely.
Anyway, this particular morning the sound system played a song by the band Green Day called “Good Riddance (Time of Your Life)”.
At the risk of putting the tune in your head for the day, the opening lyrics of the song go like this,
Another turning point a fork stuck in the road
Time grabs you by the wrist, directs you where to go
So make the best of this test, and don’t ask why
It’s not a question, but a lesson learned in time
It’s something unpredictable, but in the end it’s right
I hope you had the time of your life.”
To my delight, downstairs, presumably by the coffee bar, several young voices started singing along with this song. Their voices were loud and joyful on this beautiful, early Belfast morning. They sang unselfconsciously and to be honest, quite beautifully.
It made me stop what I was doing and look up from my work. It made me smile. It made me wish I was young again. Honestly, it was very moving.
I looked around and sitting across from me was an older man who had only recently finished his early morning sandwich and coffee. He placed his well-thumbed book down on the table in front of him and, without thinking of how he appeared to others, he rested his head on the back of the purple chair, closed his eyes and he smiled, listening to the young voices.
Every now and again, even in the face of division and conflict, some spontaneous act of community can arise which takes the breath away. Like this moment of reverence which spoke to the morning like a canticle of praise at the ending of the vigils of the nighttime and the opening of the day. Venite, exultemus domino, O Come, let us sing to the Lord.
A version of this was broadcast on Monday, 17 Sept 2018 as a Thought for the Day on BBC Radio Ulster’s Good Morning Ulster programme. The audio is found HERE