“Fame is not acceptance, it doesn't validate you as a person. It means nothing.” Quite a statement coming from the muffin lady behind the counter at a local café. The one taking customers’ money to pay for your muffin and her wage. And what does she know about fame after all?
In any other café, maybe nothing. But in the small coffee shop in Stittsville, Ontario, it's best not to make assumptions. The lady in that café knows a lot about fame – and how to turn her back on it.
Kathleen Edwards has been called one of popular music’s brightest lights. But in 2014, at the age of 36, after years of tramping the globe performing on one solo concert stage after another, of writing and recording her own music, of singing with and opening for some of the music scene’s biggest names…after all that, Kathleen Edwards quit. Emotionally exhausted, tired of trying to be what others expected, she traded the stage for a box-like building she found on the main street of Stittsville. She put down her guitar, picked up a sledgehammer and fashioned the box into a café. Then she named it Quitters (love that) and reassembled her life.
She serves coffee to her fans and community now. Makes morning glory muffins. She’s not done with music forever, she says. But for now, she’s pressing pause. She’s found something more valuable than fame.
“You know what means something?” Kathleen asks. “Having people from the neighbourhood come in, getting to know them, seeing their families, and hearing them say ‘thank you for giving us a place to go.' That's . . . awesome.”
Only a few people experience fame, but most adults I know can relate to the tendency of hanging on to something we do far longer than we ought. Perhaps praise stokes our ego. Maybe we wonder what others – even God? – would do without our contribution. Or perhaps we don’t let go simply because we don’t know how.
Kathleen’s story makes me ponder the things I do, and why I do them. Reminds me to listen for God’s whispers that speak of pressing pause sometimes. To spend less time on things that don’t matter much in the end, and to make more time for enjoying the blessings and responsibilities of connecting deeply with people. Face to face and voice to voice. Especially people who know and accept me as I am: flawed, imperfect and unfinished.
The best - and most refreshing - life God planned for you and me finds its validation, not through others’ esteem or clever use of our gifts and talents, but as Kathleen Edwards has discovered, through serving and sharing in community with others.
Listen to the muffin lady at the counter. She knows.
Kathleen's books, columns, essays, and radio spots have found homes in hearts and media outlets worldwide. She prays some of those words have made a difference. Find a few at her website, on Facebook, and in other places.
This Sunny Side Up column was previously published in various Western newspapers.