If coffee is a sacrament, then I’ve already been ordained for years! While I can’t exactly say Starbucks has gotten me through seminary, it has definitely helped—in more ways than one. I may not have gotten through my 45 minute commute to my CPE site everyday without my travel-mug of home-brewed Gold Coast Blend. All free, of course—my reward for helping others with their grinding daily Los Angeles commute.
In transferring to a store in Hyde Park, though, it’s been interesting to see how much community really can be formed around coffee. Sure, plenty of people would meet over coffee at my old store in California. And lots of people would unexpectedly run into someone they knew. But here on the south side of Chicago, people meet over coffee—for the first time, unplanned. If there’s an open chair at a table where someone is already sitting, and it’s the only one left in the café, a patron will eventually walk up and ask the person if they would mind sharing the table. That just doesn’t happen in California. If a person sitting at one table overhears an interesting conversation at the next table, they’ll join in. And the person isn’t considered rude or crazy! And sometimes that conversation ends up lasting for hours! Again, these things just didn’t happen in my store outside Los Angeles.
Community happens over coffee. Don’t get me wrong – there are plenty of people in my Hyde Park Starbucks with headphones on, hunched over a laptop clicking around facebook or writing a paper. We are across the street from the U of C, after all. But it’s been interesting to observe just how much of a “third place” a coffee shop can be. Not quite “Cheers,” but sometimes, not far from it.