I was nine when I first fell in love with coffee. It was the spring before my family moved to Oklahoma and we were in Southern California for a relative’s funeral. My mother and grandparents had taken all four of us kids with them and therefore ran the risk of there being a few interruptions during the service. My mom promised us that if we behaved, she would let us have coffee at the lunch afterwards. Sure enough, we were on our best behavior and each enjoyed an individual cup of coffee. I still remember how thrilled I was to be sipping steaming hot coffee out of that little styrofoam cup, a huge smile on my face all the while.
Over the years, my love of coffee grew. Mom or Josiah would brew a pot while we were working on schoolwork during mine and Josiah’s high school years. A coffee pot was one of the first things I purchased when I went to college. In those days I bought Folger’s, which was a luxury for a freshman at a private college. I even settled for cafeteria coffee on occasion, which was usually not very strong and very watered down by my favorite hazelnut creamer. Sophomore year I became very familiar with Gilmore Girls and began talking very quickly along with upping my coffee intake.
As I went through nursing school, coffee became more than just a drink to enjoy when I needed to stay up late to study or write a paper. It was pretty early on in my relationship with coffee when I discovered that it is the perfect agent to create and attract community. Pretty soon I was going to coffee shops in my college town to study and drink coffee with friends. I started having “coffee dates” with friends whom I wanted to get to know better or hadn’t caught up with in a while. I went on late night coffee runs to the nearest convenience store just to be with people.
My senior year, I was in charge of a missions prayer group on campus. One of my favorite faculty members led the group and I was the student leader. I had been part of the group in past years, but realized it was hard to attract students because we met over breakfast early in the morning, before most students were even awake. Since we had a budget that we could use, I suggested that we meet in the campus coffee shop once a week in the afternoon. Each person could buy a coffee or a treat in the shop on a running tab and then we would meet together and pray for our brothers and sisters serving at home and abroad. Not only was it a hit, I think I drank my weight in dirty chai lattes that year.
When I became a nurse and started working all kinds of hours in the emergency room, coffee became even more of a necessity in my life. Morning, noon, and night were only a few times in the day that I would enjoy my favorite beverage. When I moved to New York for seminary, I started inviting people over for coffee. We would sit on my bed and chat and sip on our big mugs of liquid joy. I wouldn’t trade the conversations I’ve had over coffee for anything in the world.
When I first met Josh, one of the very most important things to me was that he love coffee as much as I did. The very first time we hung out together, we went to Dunkin Donuts and he drank black coffee, by which I was very impressed. The day we were married, he vowed to always make me coffee – a vow he keeps every day. All of our adventures together include coffee, which is just one of the many reasons why we are best friends in addition to husband and wife.
Coffee is more than a caffeinated beverage. It is a friend on a cold, rainy day. It is the bridge between people of differing cultures. It is comfort in a new home where everything but it is unfamiliar. Coffee creates community. And that is a beautiful thing.