When passion boils over…REALLY???


By Kenneth Justice

~“Dude, this is one of the greatest jobs in the world” she said

~ For the past seven out of eight weeks I’ve been in different U.S. cities around the country visiting with fellow bloggers and readers on what I’ve been calling my Drinking in the Culture Tour, my excuse to escape the daily grind and experience culture outside of my normal routine. This weekend I’ll be in Boston, a city I’ve never actually hung out in before.

Most weekends I usually end up hanging out with the owners or managers of the coffee shops I visit and listen to them share their thoughts on coffee and all things coffee culture. The owners are often some of the nicest people I’ve ever met; and I’ve been overwhelmed with gratitude in how welcoming they have been in the little coffee house tour I’ve thrown together.

However, In Minneapolis two weeks I decided to sneak in unannounced; I wanted to get a different flavor of a local coffee shop without being given the start treatment that many of the coffee shops have given me.

So there I was at Bull Run Coffee in Minneapolis, just another customer ordering an espresso early on Saturday morning, and after the young woman behind the counter took my order she didn’t stop there,

So do you have any plans for the day?” she asked, as though we were friends that had known each other for years. Her tone was pleasant and warm, it wasn’t merely a rehearsed line that some corporate white collar boss forced her to say to every customer, but rather this young woman had a genuine interest in me as a fellow human being.

Have you ever been to a chain restaurant or store and listened to a cashier or employee read to you the rehearsed spiel that they are forced to say to every customer; “Thank you for coming to No-Name food, where service is our second priority most of the time, may I take your order please?” So many of those types of places seem to breed employees that sound like robots instead men and women who generally care about their clientele.

As I sat there at Bull Run Coffee and worked on my writing early that morning, I watched how Sarah behind the counter interacted with the various customers who came in; she knew nearly 80% of the people by their first name. She tended to almost always know something about their lives, “How’s your wife Angela doing Bob?” she would ask, “Everything going well in your medical studies Jamie?”

Sarah clearly loves people and loves connecting with them, “This job is one of the best jobs in the world” she said to me. Born in Vienna, Sarah’s parents worked with Rwandan Refugee’s during her childhood and as she approached her teen years they decided to move back to the states. “Bull Run Coffee is all about community” she explained, “We’ve literally have customers who love our coffee shop so much that they have intentionally bought houses right across the street that they moved into so they can just walk here every morning to hang out”.

After I explained to her who I was and my little tour, we ended up talking for some time and she was a fountain of information about all things coffee culture in the Minneapolis area; her passion for people, community, connection, and coffee was intoxicating.

Normally, I wouldn’t think that if you show up at some random business you would find an employee who was so affable and passionate about the industry; yet Sarah was all that and more. She was proud of Bull Run Coffee and what this small coffee shop and its owners had created; a third place, a spot for people to escape their house or job and sit down with friends and acquaintances for good conversation and a great cup of coffee.

Western Culture is extremely fast paced; it’s undeniable. So much of our lives are moving in a hectic whirlwind that television and watching movies ends up being an escape from the busyness of our lives. The average amount of hours Americans and Brit’s watch television rises exponentially every year, yet who among us is really proud of all that time we spend in front of a screen living vicariously through the lives of make believe people?

It’s not that I hate television or movies, but I fear that they have become nothing more than a crutch that many of us rely on; instead of returning to a time where we connect with others over a cup of coffee, we tend to become more isolated by zoning out in front of a digital screen.

For well over a year I’ve been writing about the rise in depression and loneliness. Psychologists and counselors have been powerless at curbing the increase; they have endless theories and tactics that all fail in helping the masses feel less depressed and lonely. Yet the simple fact of the matter is that sitting by yourself in a dark room with digital screen won’t help cure your loneliness. You need to get out and connect with your fellow human beings, have a conversation with someone new, share a cup of coffee with an old friend. Who knows, maybe you will end up finding a place like Bull Run Coffee where community is their priority and the employees love to be there.

Just a few thoughts as I sipped my coffee this morning,


I will be in Boston this weekend!

Categories: Culture & Society

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54 replies

  1. Great post, Kenneth! Thanks for introducing us to another loving person. I hope,hope, hope I get to see you this weekend.

  2. Yesterday, I went to my new neighborhood’s coffee shop. I know a few acquaintances that meet there early. I started to tell these two guys about an interesting Meet Up group I attended. It was for Empaths. These two extroverted and slightly ego centered guys could not hear me. One asked, is Empath an adjective? No, it is a noun.As I tried to explain,the other was googling the word empathetic. Then I tried talking a bit louder to explain why I went.The one guy must have gotten his feelings hurt because I said “You are not listening. I am trying to explain” and sulked off to his computer. The other changed the subject.
    I left there feeling like permanent brain damage has been done to people who never learned how to actively listen and to really have a conversation. Maybe I just will never have your kind of coffee house charisma.

    • Ellen, your story is a good one, honestly, it can be near impossible to connect with some people; our culture has created a lot of people who simply don’t know how to interact with others like the guy your describing.

  3. I just wish there were more ‘Sarahs’ in the coffee shops over here in Australia. Although I would actually have to go to a coffee shop to find one, I guess.

    I only drink one Italian espresso coffee first thing in the morning to wake me up and then it’s chamomile tea and water for the rest of the day. I long for that old fashioned service anywhere in retail outlets, let alone coffee shops.

    The only place one really gets to chat much is at the fresh food markets in Melbourne.

    • I suspect there are a lot of Sarah’s out there… but they may be hard to find in the midst of all the nonsense at so many stores and whatnot.

  4. How right you are- we really won’t be able to fight the loneliness and depression unless we shut off our hi-tech phones and laptops and ipads and all non-human gadgets and go make contact with all-human/all-nature/all-life based forms. I have to admit- In the past I found it very difficult to understand people who pop pills for their depression (I know, mean and ignorant and very bad of me) .. Now I have just accepted that people are different and it’s something that I have no right to take a stance on (as I realize every individual is wired differently).
    It is the same with people who serve others in coffee shops, take-aways, restaurants etc- you’re either wired to be a people-person or you’re not (and the client’s are hard to fool! 🙂 )

    • The whole popping pills for depression has really become an epidemic, and I think that a time is going to come in western culture where we will have to finally deal with where this pill popping is headed; because its not headed in a good place.

  5. Something maybe fitting. I posted yesterday on my blog,
    Maybe you seen it, but here for your readers.
    It is called “Look Up” by Gary Turk.

  6. “Isolationism” and “Individualism” are two key traits that are constantly being pushed by this country and are the anti-thesis to the core of our human nature as social creatures. The primary interests are not of the people but of power and profit, and our lives have been designed no differently than the workings of a manufacturing plant. The routine (you call it the daily grind) is boring, uncreative, unsatisfying. There is nothing built into the design to nourish the soul, and its feeding the soul that makes us happy. Psychologists and counselors will never be able to curb the rise in depression because they are tackling it at the micro level when there needs to be change at the macro level. Perhaps we could learn a thing or two from Bhutan and their Gross National Happiness index.

    • Your statement is the most concise I’ve read about the current emotional state of the American culture. I’ve believed all along that the intense commercialization of our personal lives, combined with our overt isolationist and individualist nature ultimately dooms us. The more we turn away from each other, the more ill our society becomes. It’s more apparent when one travels to other countries and finds people more free, more fulfilled, and more connected to one another and with very little in the way of personal wealth and material goods.

    • Thank you! and I agree this path is doomed. But I am still an optimist and believe we are seeing a call for change. Our inner yearnings will demand it.

    • Optimism is my middle name… so important to my life :0)

    • ya, know I learned about that happiness index thing and Bhutan last year, it totally gave me a ton to think about in relation to the U.S.

  7. I love people like Sarah – maybe in my next life I’ll be that friendly to strangers! Maybe I won’t have a next life… I probably better work on it now, just in case.
    Have fun in Boston! 😉

  8. This sounds like an awesome project/break!

  9. I am happy to say my TV and un-smart phone do not own my soul.

    • My un-smart phone seems to no more than me unfortunately; I now officially don’t know anyone’s phone number. If I lose my phone I can’t call anyone.

  10. What you say is very true. Connections are critical. TV is sensation. Too much news is sensation. This culture is not confined to the West anymore

    • That makes me sad. I’ve been studying about India a lot, I saw like four or five documentaries on India last year, and I’m very troubled with how much of Western Culture that India is adopting….I think Gandhi would be troubled 😦

  11. “It’s not that I hate television or movies, but I fear that they have become nothing more than a crutch that many of us rely on; instead of returning to a time where we connect with others over a cup of coffee, we tend to become more isolated by zoning out in front of a digital screen.”

    I have actually not watched television for many years. Aside from the fact that our TV no longer gets channels, I don’t have time to work at Hy-Vee, write, and talk with a bunch of pro-life activists about stopping abortion, rape, and the culture of death.

    Where DO people find the time to watch television? I like movies if I can learn something from them, but if I am looking for entertainment, I check my email and Facebook comments.

    • Chandler, I have no clue. The only time I watch a movie is right before I go to sleep, and most of the time I don’t even finish it. I’ve been working on a French film for nearly a week! Each night I watch about ten minutes and then get sleepy.

  12. Lack of connection with people is exactly why I’ve started looking for other jobs and one that pays better. I need more to this life than what I can get here. That’s why I’ve put myself a lil’ more in debt than I was because I’ve been using my credit cards to do things because I simply couldn’t stand to just sit at home one more day and do nothing. Trust me – if I could do more connection I would but it’s hard when you’re broke, live out in the boonies, etc., but I’m trying to change that. I agree – connection is important. I just need to find a way to do so.

    • Jen, I’ve been there too….I can remember a number of times in my life where i really didn’t have the money to do something… but I did it anyway because I just needed ‘to get out’ or ‘do something’……im’ keeping my fingers crossed that you figure out a solution to the funk you’ve been in

    • My trip to Laguna Beach and a few other things have been my way of just doing things just because I had to – I spent money I didn’t have (i.e. used my credit cards doh!!) and took a bit of a step back in debt but I had to get out of Needles for just a bit and not just to Vegas either. Anyway, I’ll get it together. Just taking a bit because everything’s been piling up lol but it’ll be sorted out. 🙂 Thanks for keeping your fingers crossed!

    • 🙂 “This too shall pass” ….

  13. From your fingertips to God’s eyes!!! We are becoming ( have become) a country where media is so dangerously powerful, where people watch “reality” (ha whose?) tv rather than be engaged in reality. There are parents who would rather come home after work and stare into a tv set than attend their kid’s after achool events. Of course there are the other extreme who rather than actually spend time living with their kids, doing things with their kids, would have their every minute structured and scheduled into activities. There is a middle ground. It is in real life where people aren’t so driven by what they have come to define as success in their lives and in the lives of their kids. One of the best things to happen in this country would have been to have the bottom fall out financially. Something to take us all back a ways. Okay clearly not to have people suffer, starve and having families split up looking for a way to survive. I will have to take that one back. I guess something I am thinking is that rather than having the minimum wage raised what we need to a reset- where the roof is lowered. The upper eshilon is dripping in excess. And those who say that if it is earned, then it should be theirs, need to talk to those upon whose backs that money is
    “earned”. Our cost of living is ridiculous. We all went down the canal that was sold to America as “the way”. Education- in terms of high paid for letters behind a person’s name , was the trade of for common sense and learning actual living and survival skills. High school used to help prepare kids for what their life would become. It prepared for higher education but it addressed the reality of life as it is lived. It was shocking that children were part of what made the household work be done- and not for an allowance- for the grace of time spent together with family. It was seen as a way to help- a positive thing. SUre every kids grumbled and hated it at times. But they also understood if there were to be times for picnics and family walks or rides through the country then it would take everyone pitching together to make ift happen. Parents valued their time with their kids and learned to appreciate them as people- that children were little people not some other entity waiting to morph into this adult- a totally different entity. They saw the child evolving, growing- more than someone who had to be catered to, or coddled from truths, or someone to toss money at- and then blame or toss it in their face that that is what the adult did for theme. No it wasn’t perfect. But I bet more of us would say we’d rather have grown up when we did than now….and our parents before us. Oops I hear my soap box cracking- time to get off of it.

    • “our cost of living is ridiculous”

      Dude, don’t even get me started on this…I totally agree. I struggle so much with the way our culture is moving, and how the cost of living is practically changing the landscape of lifestyle over night…. there doesn’t seem to be anything changing either.

  14. The clerks at my small town grocery store are like this. Ask me questions instead of just ringing up my groceries, seem genuinely interested in the answer. I’m kind of reserved, which was fine on the east coast, so I’ve had to learn to be more friendly here in the west, to smile and be willing to make chit-chat.
    In general I’ve found that pushing myself to be out and about, talking to people, definitely keeps me from feeling depressed. It’s not natural for some of us introverts, but I still think we all need to feel connected to society.

    • Miriam, there is a cashier at the one grocery store who is exactly the way your describing, she’s an older woman and each week I see her she totally puts a smile on my face :0)

  15. That’s great about the barista at that coffee shop. Sounds like she is doing a good job. She cares about it and cares about those she serves. Now if more people and companies could just do that. I’d be a very happy camper.

  16. Oh…I’m late for the party again! Actually, it’s your fault…you posted late. I saw this great video this morning and I had to share it with you because it’s all about what we talk about every day. Then I quickly scrolled down to see that Ranting Crow has already posted it and several other bloggers saw it too.

    So…if you haven’t watched it yet…you’d better do it now. Too many of your regulars are telling you it good. 🙂 Just razzin’ ya! Glad you had fun hanging out with Sarah. She sounds like a breath of fresh air! 🙂

  17. I doubt I will be in the Boston area this weekend, but in the event I am, where will you be working on your writing?

  18. A) I actually am kind of proud of a few of the Netflix binges I’ve gone on. That’s probably not a good sign.

    B) Let’s be honest, most doctors/scientist aren’t being paid to prevent depression. They are being paid to treat it. The more people who have depression, the more people there are to treat…. which means they make more money. We don’t live in a culture focused on preventing anything, especially health condition. We just do what we want and then search for a cure when the consequences catch up to us.

    • I love your bullet points 🙂

      A) actually I’m obsessed with bullet points
      b) I love Netflix binges
      c) and your right, doctors don’t get paid to prevent it… but I’m also saying they don’t really know how to treat it effectively either.

  19. I have two gripes that relate and slightly relate to this article. First I agree that people watch way to much TV. Living our lives vicariously through make believe people is rather honestly sad. The second gripe is (please folks understand) I am a tea drinker and I do not drink coffee, though every friend I have does, I want coffee shops to put as much care in tea as they do coffee. i am tired of going to a coffee shop and getting some bland and stale tea that has sat on the shelf for a year because no one drinks it. Just a thought. I once again enjoyed reading your post.

    • Randall, I can’t speak for your community, but there are Tea Shoppes where I live, both our Asian owned and make fantastic tea. I think it is slowly catching on but we are really a coffee society..so its gonna take a while.

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