The joy of rubbing shoulders with the best

COFFEE WITH WARREN, with Warren Harbeck
Cochrane Eagle, September 17, 2003

A reader of this column commented recently on an awesome privilege that is mine: to rub shoulders with some of the most wonderful people in all the world.

And it's true.

Right here in our little corner of the universe among the rolling foothills to the Canadian Rockies west of Calgary, in schools and churches, at the post office and bank, at the library and service stations, at pow wows, rodeos and gift shops, and – especially – at coffee shops, I have the joy of rubbing shoulders with the very best.

Why, just this past week I rubbed shoulders with a classical-guitar-playing CP Rail engineer who drives long freight trains through the Spiral Tunnels in the heart of the Rockies. And I rubbed shoulders with a retired resident of GlenEagles who, as a passionate model railroad hobbyist, pays such attention to detail that he left the engineer in awe.

I rubbed shoulders with a circle of scholarly thinkers as they discussed the idea of lucid thought and lucid language.

And I rubbed shoulders with a morning coffee klatch of every-day folks as they struggled to understand how the word "heroic" could possibly be applied to anyone for simply being Ben Affleck, Jennifer Lopez or one of the Spice Girls.

I rubbed shoulders with a blind mountain climber who, laughing adversity in the face, scaled Canada's highest peak and inspires others to rise above self-pity to embrace life for all it's worth.

I rubbed shoulders with a retired couple who think nothing of spending their holidays bicycling the length of Cuba when they're not climbing the Alps or the Rockies.

I rubbed shoulders with another couple who get up in the wee hours of the morning to drive 45 minutes into downtown Calgary where they volunteer to prepare breakfast for the less fortunate.

I rubbed shoulders with a woman from Morley preparing for the 50th anniversary of her parents. Her father was chief of the Chiniki First Nation some years ago, as well as a pastor, and he and I rubbed shoulders along many miles of road in Western Canada and the United States while he taught me valuable lessons in love and forgiveness.

I rubbed shoulders with two women just diagnosed with cancer, and I rubbed shoulders with the aunt of a child lying helpless in the hospital.

I rubbed shoulders with members of the Bahai'i community as they prayed for reconciliation among enemies and oneness of heart among all peoples.

I rubbed shoulders with a committee from five area churches, Protestant and Catholic, preparing for this fall's 10-week Alpha Course, an introduction to Christianity that surmounts the walls that have so long divided the faith.

Week after week, I rub shoulders with kids full of the joie de vivre, their backpacks bulging with textbooks, love notes and dreams. I rub shoulders with elders full of stories of dreams achieved – and some not.

I rub shoulders with authors and readers, bookstore owners and librarians, Harry Potter fans and Harry Potter foes; with sculptors and painters, composers and musicians; with bridge builders and people on a journey; with healers and the healed, joggers and hikers, tree huggers and tree choppers, ranchers and petroleum industry entrepreneurs; with PhDs and with others who never completed grade school.

I rub shoulders with cabinet makers, glassblowers, art dealers, art framers, elected officials, voters, newsmakers, news publishers, ice cream sellers, ice cream eaters, coffee brewers and coffee drinkers.

And, yes, sometimes over coffee I even rub shoulders with members of the RCMP, Canada's finest.

All these folks here in the Bow Valley make my life richer, and through the words of this column I hope they make your life richer, too.

So, thank you, my friend, for causing me to pause and reflect on how fortunate I am to rub shoulders with people like these.

Oh, the privilege, the privilege.

© 2003 Warren Harbeck

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