I took Leonard Sweet’s book, The Gospel According to Starbucks, (WaterBrook, 2007) with me on a business road trip. The subtitle is, “Living with a Grande Passion.” This is my third time through this book. It is that rich. Sweet loves coffee and has lots of stories. He likes Southern Gospel Music and knows the pioneers. He loves Jesus Gospel and is a preaching instructor and theologian. Eclectic! I’ve gone into extra words here, because he is a fine writer. If you are a writer, speaker or any kind of wordsmith, you would like Sweet’s writing. His book, A Cup of Coffee at the Soul Café (Broadman & Holman, 1998) is one of the most beautifully designed books I’ve seen. In the Starbucks book Sweet says,
“Coffee brings people together. That’s why we don’t have an idiom in the English language along the lines of, ‘Let’s stay apart for coffee.’ It’s always, ‘Let’s get together for coffee.’”
My favorite coffee shop is in that city where I took Carole and the book. It is an independent shop that is also an eatery. I take my laptop and briefcase and hunker in. I gather energy from the customers and staff. The rafters are open beams one of which is broken—split—which is repaired by a steel plate and large bolts. I look forward to the good coffee, comfort and atmosphere. This would be only the second or third time since March to sit in a coffee shop. I had to go back to the car to retrieve my mask which reminded me we live in a different world than we were in the last time I drank their brew.
The coffee shop was no longer welcoming. People sitting around tables slipped their masks off to sip on their coffee as if it was illegitimate or forbidden—don’t get caught. I ordered my drink to go and sat in the car warmed by solar energy to read and think—and feel very sad and lonely—in spite of the luscious flavored coffee.
Ray Oldenburg coined the phrase and concept of “Your third place.” Home, work, and a third place. For some the third place is a bar, pub, tavern, bowling alley. I think ballparks can fill that slot. The church used to be the major third place for many people. Coffee shops took over that place for our kids and grandkids. Starbucks led the way.
The most accurate 2020 Christmas Song is, “I’ll Be Home for Christmas.” Third places are almost outlawed—certainly a target. The first two places: home and work are under scrutiny and depending on your level of conspiracy hunting, home and work parameters are being dictated by Big Brother. It is not conspiratorial to believe that connections are essential to health.
The loudest word I heard in the past 24 hours is that we must fight for personal connections. I’m not calling for civil disobedience or suggesting we open churches, although when I slouch into conspiracy thinking, I see how keeping churches closed is damaging to the individual and the community.
My cousin left a note for her husband. He read it, “Going to Dairy Queen for a bite.” When she hadn’t arrived for supper, he assumed the worst. She called him—the note she wrote said, “Going to Bowling Green for the nite.” (Bowling Green is where her daughter lived.)
Connections in 2020 require clear communication and plenty of it. “…fight for personal connections” may not have come from God, but it sounds like something He would say. Now, Holy Spirit shall give us instructions and strategies how to do that. I don’t know what number law it is: “All things in motion tend toward entropy.” That is true for relationships—even marriage. The New Testament relationship motion is always energized toward.
Mental health and Kingdom life-flow is affected as isolation moves from community interaction to lockdown and then individual isolation and shutting down. Connection is worth fight for—essential.
“Forget Cheers (“where everybody knows your name”) Remember Starbucks (“Where everybody wants to know your soul”). (Leonard Sweet)
That is not my coffee shop experience, but we need someplace where some tribe offers that level of connection.
©2020 D. Dean Benton
Living the EPIC adventure: Experience, Participation, Image-rich and Connecting.