Monday, October 23, 2006

The French Paradox

A lot has been made of the French paradox concerning food. It seems that the French smoke too much, drink too much, and eat fatty foods, but they are measurably healthier than Americans. Few people are over-weight and obesity is non-existent. A quick tour of France answers this question. The French eat less and exercise more. Walking is the most common form of transportation and many people ride bicycles. Restaurants generally serve smaller portions.

The bigger puzzle to me concerns the huge number of small businesses. There are literally millions of small shops and cafes all over France with very few chains, big box retailers, and almost no franchises. The typical street in any French town or city is lined with dozens of small shops with the owner behind the counter. The variety is huge, the service good, and the prices are fair.

I guess my question is: How did we get to the point in this country (USA) where the big boys run the show?

Chains and franchises have homogenized the country to the point that it is very hard to go into a town and not find exactly the same restaurants and stores as the previous town. I recently looked at a copy of “Entrepreneur” magazine and was amazed to find that half the ads were for companies selling franchises. When did we get to the place where having your own business meant buying someone else’s ideas and plans.

America has a reputation for individualist and independent thinking, but that is not at all what you see when you look down any street.

By the way, stop by Homer’s Coffee House. It is the only one;and no, we are not planning on franchising.

Let me know what you think. Click on “comments” below. Maybe together we can figure out this dilemma.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Changes in Latitude - Changes in Attitude

Louise and I and some friends just returned from 10 days in France where we were all celebrating out 35th wedding anniversaries.

It had been a quite a few years since we had been to France, so I had inadvertently bought in to some of the stereotypes and clichés about the French. Was I ever wrong! Everyone we encountered was warm and friendly. We enjoyed lots of wonderful conversations with all sorts of people. Everywhere we looked, people were working hard. The streets were immaculately clean and everything worked. There were no pot holes, no steel plates over the streets. We saw a new bridge that is the longest and the highest in the world. As far as I could tell, all the workers were Frenchmen with very little imported labor.

I suppose that if we hard began speaking loudly in English, demanding that our coffee be watered down and our Coke poured over ice, we might have been treated differently. I am also sure that if a French speaker walked into an American café, speaking loudly in French, demanding that things be served according to his custom, he would not be treated with much respect either.

Respecting other people’s customs and history is an important part of getting along as people. In I Corinthians 9, Paul talks about the importance of respecting the culture in order to share the love of Christ and His message of reconciliation.

We don’t have to travel around the globe to find other cultures, sometime we just need to travel down the street. But the message is still the same. People are people and if shown respect, they will respond with respect.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

I to Me

Over the past few years I have noticed that the personal pronoun "I" is becoming less and less useful to me. Instead the words "we" and "us" appear a lot more in my daily usage. Since we (not I) opened Homer's Coffee House five years ago this weekend, I have learned to rely more and more on my employees, friends, and family.

The things that are most worthwhile in life cannot be done by just one person. We must surround ourselves with a community of people who care about us and care about the things we care about. It is a significant spiritual step to begin thinking in terms of a community and not just about ourselves. It is a big move from "me" to "we."

The Homer's team have demonstrated that to me. It weren't for them, I would certainly have moved on to something else; but the community bond is so strong that I have no reason or desire to leave.

I play in a band - Sky Blue. It has been said that playing music together is one of the strongest of relationships because for several hours at a time we are sharing our feelings and emotions through the language of music in front of a large group of people. It is certainly a clear picture of community where we each have our role and are working closely together for a common goal.

As Rick Warren says, "First of all, it is not about me."