“And, if you’re a coffee lover, there’s a place you must go to – it is called “CORALLO” and it is located at Principe Real – the very best coffee in town can be found there!! :o)”
This was the message I received from the Airbnb host I had just booked to stay with in Lisbon last summer. I had mentioned my affection for coffee and she swooped in with a suggestion that I duly took her up on when I arrived a few weeks later. Not only was the coffee exquisite, it also came with a small slab of chocolate of my choice. An excellent combination. And if that wasn’t enough, all it cost me was €1.
The fun did not end there, either. The coffee house was located near a quiet park where locals and tourists alike lingered contentedly. Some painted or read or sat, others walked or talked or worked. I happily joined them for a while. I then took to the nearby steep, cobbled streets which brought me to another park, this one much smaller, which was surrounded by tall, colourful houses and a cluster of restaurants. There I grabbed lunch. It was all such a pleasant, nourishing morning as new sights and smells and happenings greeted me – and my camera! – at almost every turn.
And all of this begun with a suggestion, a passing comment from someone I hardly knew.
It caused me reflect on how our routine interaction and engagement with others sometimes – both online and offline – has a tendency to surprise us by what they prompt and inspire. A friend uses Twitter or Facebook to beam about a book they are reading. We happen to come across the book in a bookstore and, recalling our friend’s ringing recommendation, buy it. We later open the book’s pages and find it difficult to put down. The content or style of a picture on your Instagram feed unleashes a wave of creativity into one of your followers. Someone shares with you in conversation an answer to prayer that profoundly resonates with you.
And isn’t it lovely when someone unexpectedly says to you how helpful something you said in passing years ago has been for them? We don’t even remember what it was we said, and if even we do sometimes the impact was far different and greater than we first thought.
There is a magic to our everyday exchanges that so often eludes us. That’s not to say that every suggestion or comment or post we share carries impact. But I wonder if by underestimating this there is a danger that we stay silent when there may well just be someone for whom your input will inspire something special. How often it is we keep our mouths shut or delete that thoughtfully-constructed tweet or Facebook post because we feel no one wants to listen? I am a firm believer that more people are listening to us than we realise.
“Does anyone dare despise this day of small beginnings?” God said to the prophet Zechariah (4:10, The Message).
It’s a sweet thought to wander into each day knowing that it could hold a small and beautiful beginning, all because of something hidden in the normality of conversation and social media feeds. The small beginning maybe for us. Or perhaps it will be for someone else – an aspect of their lives warmly affected by a suggestion we offered in person or online.
So, if you really want to, I say tell others about the countries, places, shops, restaurants and the like you have frequented. Instagram that quote that speaks what you’ve never been quite able to articulate yourself. Share what God is doing in your life. Talk about the book that you are currently lost in. Enthuse about the song that strikes a chord with you. Be it online or offline, if you feel the urge to raise your voice, to share about the goodness of something, do so. Whole new worlds lay ready to be explored and often it begins with the smallest of beginnings.
Oh, and if you do happen to visit Lisbon and like coffee, may I humbly suggest Corallo. The coffee, chocolate and its accompanying surroundings are a joy to savour. I can also recommend a good AirBnb host…
This post is a variation of a blog post I wrote in May 2017 for Premier Christianity called What can we learn from this record breaking, nugget winning US teenager?