I am currently sitting at a charming coffee shop on the central plaza of Antigua, Guatemala enjoying the crisp spring morning. From where I am sitting, I can see cobblestone streets, a beautiful tree with yellow flowers, and rich architecture lining the plaza. The Cafe’ Negro is still too hot to drink, but the aroma of the Guatemalan coffee is rich. The setting feels surreal and foreign – it belongs in a movie.

antigua guatemala cafe on plaza

As I start to sip the bold coffee, the Guatemalan man in the photo below ruins my morning.

Guatemalan Man in Cafe


The man did not harm me or even utter one a word to me. In fact, my only interaction with the older gentleman was a quick nod of the head. It is the quote embroidered on his jacket that ruins my morning:

Collect Memories Not Things

The words simultaneously causes introspection and wreck me. Why? Because too often I collect things. I am guilty of not cherishing every memory. Not soaking up the moment. Instead, I have bought the lies propagated by marketers – that thing will make me happy.

As I ponder the quote, it resonates. The four words expose a character flaw I previously thought was a strength. Yes, I am successful. Yes, I can afford to buy the things I want. However, those things oftentimes distract me from what matters most.

Oftentimes, things complicate life and distract us from what matters. They make memories seem less important. Sometimes, they make memories impossible. To pay for the stuff, we sacrifice time with those matter.

When I am at the end of my life, the fact that I had a new car, iPhone 7, or nicer stuff will be worthless. The memories of John Harrison recreating life events with Legos, Violetta making sand angels at the beach, or Elise wanting to marry me will be precious.

In spite of a society that yells at me to focus on things, I must begin to focus more on memories. The opportunity to make some memories is a narrow window that once closed cannot be reopened. I can’t make up for lost memories.

Even now, I look around and realize that I am literally sitting in the middle of a beautiful memory. The fountain bubbling in the center of the plaza, the stray dogs playing, the face of an older Guatemalan woman selling handmade tapestry, the sounds of joy from children playing, and even the smells of the coffee shop around me – this moment is special and deserves my focus. The memory is beautiful.

Antigua Plaza

Although the Guatemalan man lives in a world removed from mine, he changed me. I am grateful that our paths crossed this morning. I am thankful that the simple patch on his jacket reminded me of this important truth.