Living Simply | May 2, 2016


Photo by Lia Leslie

I work a few mornings each week at my favorite neighborhood coffee shop. On those days, I wake up long before the sun, tie on my apron, and get the beans brewing in time to serve my early rising regulars.

If you frequent a place enough to be a “regular,” you know the comfort of a place like mine: You’re warmly greeted (often by name), and your usual coffee is sitting on the counter by the time you make it to the cash register. People who see you several times each week— employees and even other regulars—ask about your life. If you’re feeling sick or sad, someone offers to fix you a cup of tea. It might be only five minutes, but five minutes every day adds up to enough time to truly care about a person.

Last week I was sitting by myself in the cafe, trying to finish writing an article. I was frustrated because so many customers and co-workers had interrupted me to say hello, and I was debating moving to a quieter spot. But when I looked around I realized how silly it was to be frustrated by a group of people who cared so much about each other—and about me. I couldn’t help but notice that we were quite the mix of age, gender, race, and background, and we likely would never have otherwise met. Yet there we were, accidentally belonging, immersed in a highly caffeinated community centered on something as simple as coffee.

If a neighborhood cafe can foster the kind of uplifting relationships that God surely intended for humans, how much more should the church? If coffee is a good enough catalyst for people to form bonds and become vulnerable with one another, shouldn’t mutual faith in Jesus and a shared need for his transformational love be an even better one?

Of course many church “regulars” have developed deeper, more substantive relationships with each other than typical coffee shop regulars, but it’s also true that many move through their Sunday routine without ever exploring the richness of the community that surrounds. It doesn’t happen overnight, and it doesn’t happen with everyone, but I have seen such friendships bloom between the most unlikely of pairs in 5 minutes every day (or 20 minutes every week). All it takes is a little vulnerability— and a little cream and sugar.

On occasion, we church folk over-complicate our faith communities with intimidating expectations of time or commitment or fear of others seeing our imperfections. So maybe it’s overly simplistic to think that deep communities of faith can grow through brief, consistent interactions, or that lasting friendships can form through only a few minutes of authentic sharing and receiving each week. But maybe the key is somewhere between—in welcoming and storytelling and serving and tea-fixing. Maybe it’s as simple as never missing another coffee hour.

Coffee punch

This decadent treat is sure to please even the non-java drinkers at your next coffee hour. Be sure to start it the night before.

  • Mix 4 tablespoons instant coffee with 2 cups boiling water.
  • Add 1/2 cup sugar and 6 cups cold water.
  • Refrigerate overnight.
  • Add 1 pint half-and-half and 1/2 gallon each chocolate and vanilla ice cream.
  • Stir and serve.

Amanda J. Garcia is a freelance writer living in Elgin, Ill. Visit her online at