Bananas and Coffee

My one-hundred-year-old step-father was certainly an interesting man. Much to the frustration of most people, especially my mother, he had very strong opinions about almost everything, going to great lengths to prove the rightness of his arguments.

After the death of my mother, he lived on, somewhat contentedly, in a nearby nursing home. Once a week I would pick him up and take him out shopping. It was an event he much looked forward to.

After going to the bank, the chemist and the fruit shop, we would always finish the occasion with a cup of coffee at Hilda’s café. But it was buying bananas that caused me most amusement.

As someone who loved the fruit immensely, consuming at least one a day, he always looked forward to carefully picking them over, even though he was nearly blind, and packing up a bag of around ten or so.

Bananas, on the whole, are really cheap in this part of the country, usually averaging between $1.50 to $2.50 a kilo, but the day came when the banana crop was hit by a dreadful disease. The price soared overnight higher than the orbiting space station. For weeks they sat between nine and twelve dollars a kilo.

I’ll never the forget the first time he saw the dramatically increased price. To you, dear reader, however, you would have to know something of the forceful and emphatic nature of this good man, to appreciate the reaction.

When speaking on a subject on which he was very passionate, he would raise his voice, thump the table to really emphasises the importance of what he was saying, and cause the most distant patron in any café to stop drinking their coffee and wonder where the bomb was. There were a number of topics that I skilfully avoided when we were sipping our coffee in Hilda’s quiet little coffee shop.

“NINE DOLLARS” he would exclaim, “that’s preposterous. Dear oh dear. That can’t be true. I refuse to buy them”. And refuse he did. For weeks he went without his precious bananas which sent him into quite deep depression. When I picked him up each week, I was loath to tell him, certainly, within the confines of the cabin of my car that the price was still up. It would not have created pleasant driving conditions.

On one occasion, I made the mistake of suggesting to him that he always bought cashew nuts each week and they were around sixteen dollars a kilo. Even chocolate, (another delicacy he would buy) I said, at two dollars fifty a one-hundred-gram bar, worked out at twenty-five dollars a kilo.  So Bananas were still cheap.

These comments were met with a stony silence that was reinforced by a slow shake of the head, as he wandered off.

Years later, I was musing on this fondly-remembered experience, as to how we can hold dichotomous views on values. How easily we can pay a high price for one thing, while rejecting something else, even though it may have much the same or lesser numerical value.

I found myself reviewing some of the things we purchase in our home. I discovered for me, it was more about coffee. How willingly I sit down in a café and consume a cup of, sometimes not-so-good coffee which is usually around three dollars fifty.

The difference here is that it’s only two hundred mills which equates to around eighteen dollars a kilo or litre. At the end of which, I walk out of the shop with nothing to show for it. At least my stepfather would walk out of the shop with a bag of fruit.

In our family, we consume a lot of fresh vegetables and fruit. Aubergine or Egg plant is one such vegetable usually costing around two to three dollars a kilo. One week they became scarce, the price soared to eight dollars a kilo. My wife was shocked and refused to buy them.

I remember saying, “Wait a minute. Don’t we pay sixteen dollars a kilo for coffee and have nothing to show for it? Why would we not pay only four dollars for half a kilo of a vegetable that we will get two meals out of?” Strange how logic is not always a convincing argument. We didn’t buy it.

These days, I find myself comparing most things to the price of a cup of coffee and now pay for things I would have once rejected. But I guess the greater lesson for me was the question… ‘What about all of my other values in life?’ To what do I compare them? What do I use as my base value, for any or everything?

Of course, the material things of this world, like bananas and coffee, although we are surrounded by them every day, have only superficial value. Jesus told us to value things according to His Kingdom principles. I’m not too sure that many of His followers could even name what they are. But I have determined to be thoroughly familiar with them, so that on a day to day basis, I don’t have to struggle over apparent disparities.

Thanks to both bananas and coffee, it was a clear time of learning to put values in perspective.

Job wrote of wisdom saying,

 “Where can wisdom be found? … Mankind doesn’t appreciate its value; and you won’t find it anywhere on earth…  You can’t buy it with gold, and its value cannot be calculated in silver…  It cannot be compared to gold from Ophir, with precious onyx, or with sapphire… It cannot be compared to fine glass crystal, nor can it be exchanged for gold-plated weaponry”              Job 28:12 – 17

Jesus spoke frequently of values, encouraging us to understand true value. He particularly wanted us to understand how the Father values us. He once said…

“Two sparrows are sold for a penny, aren’t they? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground without your Father’s permission.

Why, even all the hairs on your head have all been counted! So stop being afraid. You are worth more than a bunch of sparrows.”    Mat 10:29-31

“.. what profit will a person have if he gains the whole world and loses his life? Or what can a person give in exchange for his life? Mat 16:26

Bananas and coffee at any price, seem cheap compared with the value of our soul.


Life Really Matters


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