Saturday, April 02, 2005

community

I remember my earliest coffee days. I wasn't even married. It seems like many years ago. It was. My wife to be and I would hang out at a friends house, sit around the table and drink coffee for hours and talk about everything and nothing at all. I was hooked. Starbucks was only an infant in the northwest. I had Folgers, or whatever else was on sale. There were no coffee shops. Only diners and truckstops if you wanted to go "out" for coffee. But it wasn't really the coffee we were looking for, it was the company. So any table would do. Just a table to know each other over. It was that way for us through all of life's moves, changes, careers, births, deaths, you name it. We shared coffee and life. Of course over time, coffee itself became a bit more important. I remember our first grinder. I remember the excitement of first travelling down the aisle of specialty coffee beans, collected in the clear tall dispensing containers. I remember the smugness of being able to choose these beans while those poor unfortunate souls continued to buy theirs in cans. It was still about the conversation though. Now I couldn't wait to have people around my table, to drink my coffee, to hear my stories. I just read a note the other day long tucked away from 10 years ago. It said in part, " I look forward to many more times of sitting around drinking coffee and sharing thoughts". We drank alot of it with this friend. So much so in fact, even though we haven't seen each other or spoken in probably 4 years, a good cup of even Folgers (God forbid) would bring it all back. It's interesting how that worked through my life. I find it interesting because now I live in coffee mecca. I live in Starbucks backyard. There are literally 7 coffee shops within a 2 block walking distance that only really exist for coffee. Coffee is an art here. Conversation is not. Coffee shops are filled day and night, but for the most part the inhabitants are alone. There are relatively few groups. There is relatively little sharing. Books, dogs, and laptops are more often than not the companion of choice here. The community that used to be so effortless, now requires an effort that many are unwilling or unable to make. I'm not sure which it is, unwilling or unable. My confusion is this; I live in an era and an area that says a primary felt need of people is for community. I hear constantly a call to develop venues of community building, but each attempt is met with, at best, apathy. I think that the need is real. I think that the statistics are accurate. I know that they'd be better off if they found it. Which is what makes this whole thing so frustrating. It also causes me to think that the problem is more likely to be that they don't know how. They don't know what community looks like. I've been told that it is because of the "pioneering spirit" of the Northwest. Since none of my neighbors, even the 92 year old next door, have travelled the passes in covered wagons I sincerely doubt it. I think that they've just not really ever seen it in action. Maybe the coffee art and coffee shops have taken us away from where community truly existed in the first place. Maybe what we really need is just a goo cup of Folgers (God forbid) and a kitchen table. Maybe then we'd be alright.

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