by Kenneth Justice
~ Christmas Eve 2013
Late last night one of my close friends called me, “Kenneth, what are you doing? Come hang out at the coffee shop with me” he said….he’s the guy I wrote about yesterday whom I met five years ago via him observing me get cussed out by this random old dude who didn’t like my taste in music.
Though it was too late for me to have any caffeine, we hung out for a couple hours late into the evening and talked about the usual sort of randomness that flows from our table; the various people he and I met at the coffee shops over the past week, Christmas even services at church, how his ailing mother is doing…..and all the other various things that friends talk about over a cup of coffee……
I learned a long time ago that coffee shops were for me that ‘third place’…psychologists have known for a long time that throughout the history of the industrialized world; humans have always had a ‘third place’…..here’s what Wikipedia says,
“The third place (also known as third space) is a term used in the concept of community building to refer to social surroundings separate from the two usual social environments of home and the workplace. In his influential book “The Great Good Place“, Ray Oldenburg (1989, 1991) argues that third places are important for civil society, democracy, civic engagement, and establishing feelings of a sense of place.”
Our home is the first place in our life, our job/vocation is the second place, and the third place has varied throughout history and changes from one person to the next;
—) The general store
—) A barber shop
—) A tavern, pub, or bar
—) A coffee shop
For me, when I was a teenager I quickly learned how much I enjoyed hanging out at little café’s and coffee shops. I enjoyed the laid back social element, where there was the possibility of meeting someone new and having an interesting conversation…..or simply hanging out in a quiet atmosphere in order to read a book or study.
When I made it to Europe years ago I remember how excited I felt to be on the shores of the ‘Old World’ and visit café’s and coffee shops and meet people from so many different walks of life.
When I first visited Central America I was amazed at how much the coffee and café experience was a part of the culture there. Everywhere I went, from one city to the next, I would stumble upon the coolest little café’s where I could sip coffee and learn about the culture from the various patrons who were hanging out and who were excited to talk to me, an dude from the U.S. who came from thousands of miles away.
The landscape of America is definitely changing. With each new year comes the publication of more books by authors who describe the higher level of disconnectedness that Western Culture is experiencing. Gone are many of the small towns….having been replaced by mega-strip malls….gone are many of the local independently owned coffee shops…replaced by corporate chains…….
Also sad has been the number of corporate chain coffee houses which has decreased as places like Starbucks have been less interested in building physical brick-and-mortar buildings in favor of putting new franchises inside grocery stores and department stores like “Target”……For me, hanging out at the Starbucks in Target simply isn’t the same as hanging out at a real coffee shop.
Of course, Western Culture has been changing long before I was born…and I am sure that ‘change’ is nothing new to the shores of the Americas and all across Europe and other parts of the world. Change is inevitable.
I’ve always been slow to the party when it comes to accepting ‘change’. I really enjoy my little routines…..I remember when my favorite coffee shop closed 18 years ago how sad I got…..I was only a 17 at the time but I had so many great memories from the place and when the owner sold the place and moved to Florida I remember feeling as though part of my family disappeared.
Because I enjoy the little ‘routines’ in my life….it also explains why I still enjoy things like Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve. Every year, no matter whether it was a good year or bad; I look forward to the Christmas Eve service at church, seeing the way the building is decorated for the holiday, seeing the nativity scene, listening to the choir, and even though I’m now in my thirties I still find it to be a special moment when all the lights go out in the sanctuary and everyone holds a little candle and sings “Silent Night”.
Last night as I sat with my friend at the café I told him that there were a lot of “church moments” this year that really bothered me, like when I ran into some really intense Christians on the street one night who told me that because I didn’t go to their church and believe exactly what they believe….I was going to hell. My friend empathized with me, “Kenneth man, I know what your saying, sometimes being a Christian means we have to put up with a lot of s**t from our fellow Christians” he said. And that is okay…..because nobody is perfect….and life moves on.
I hope each of you have a wonderful holiday. Whether you are Jewish, Muslim, Christian, Agnostic, or whatever….I wish you all the best, and perhaps if you have a few moments you can tell me what your ‘third’ place is…..
For now, the sun is close to rising and I’m realizing it is time for my morning cup of coffee,
Categories: Culture & Society