by Jadell Forman
Throughout the years in my rural Minnesota hometown, there have been several places where people met to sip on something and chat.
Years ago, the Happy Chef was the most popular of such places. When I waitressed there with my friends during our high school years, the “coffee clutch” came in around 2:45 p.m.
We waitresses fired up the coffee-machines and restocked the cinnamon rolls. I loved to waitress, attending to customers, making sure their cups were filled. Several times, I raised the pot, and raised my eyebrows in silent question. They raised their cup in response.
That’s what happened this past Christmas. Except, for the first time, I was on the cup side of this common, coffee gesture.
Christy and I have known each other all our lives. When growing up, our moms often met at each other’s home “for coffee.” While Christy and I and our respective siblings went off to play, our moms shared life and coffee.
Now adults, Christy, her sister Tracy, and I reconvened, after many years, at their parents’ home. Inside a log house, surrounded by tall pines, all of us stirred up a lot of memories and drank a lot of coffee, provided in absentia by their brother.
Each night, Christy and I slept downstairs in two guest rooms. The morning after Christmas, as I came out of the bathroom, we crossed paths, and she whispered, “We’re the only ones up, which surprises me.” She held up her cup with a smile. “But I made some coffee, if you want some.”
“You made coffee?” I whispered back, still trying to decipher her whisper.
She nodded. I gave a thumbs up, and made my way to the coffee pot.
Later, with all of us in the kitchen talking and at varying stages of coffee preparing and drinking, Christy, without interrupting the conversation, looked at me, raised her eyebrows, and raised the coffee pot.
That was the first time I can remember someone doing for me what I’d so often done for my customers. Suddenly on the receiving end, I recognized this offering and sharing and pouring for what it was: serving, caring, considering the needs of another. “Yeah, I’ll take a warm-up,” I said.
That’s the intention for conversations here at The Neighborhood Café. As people gather in this café, may there be a warming of hearts, a sharpening of minds, a drinking of life.
While all three of us—Eugene, Michael, and myself—will be taking turns writing entries and inviting discussion about faith, mine (written mostly on Mondays) will initially focus on the act of drinking as a metaphor for living. I’ll be quoting from one of my favorite books, Can You Drink the Cup? by Henri Nouwen.
For several Mondays to come, we’ll consider holding, lifting, and drinking the cup of our lives. Additionally, together, we’ll take a courageous look into the cup of sorrow and a thoughtful look into the cup of joy.
So, as we come to this table to offer, share, and listen, may God grace us with the ability to essentially pour life into one another, responding to the One who is always doing so for us.
At worst, drinking together is saying, “We trust each other enough that we don’t want to poison each other.” At best, it is saying, “I want to get close to you and celebrate life with you.” It breaks through the boundaries that separate us and invites us to recognize our shared humanity. Thus, drinking together can be a true spiritual event, affirming our unity as children of God.
Henri Nouwen, Can You Drink the Cup? (p. 80)