A Meditation on the Coffee Shop

From the Regal Heights Review Fall 2019, Vol I

By Rebeccah Love

As a person who drinks very little coffee or tea, it has never made much sense for me to spend my waking hours in coffee shops.

I certainly didn’t do much of this while growing up in Regal Heights. As a kid I spent most of my time on the streets: playing ball hockey on Lauder, scootering down the Regal Road hill, racing across Clovis John Brooks Lane. In the winter months, we spent all our free time in the bedrooms of our best friends, collecting beanie babies or baking chocolate chip cookies in our parents’ kitchens, carefully learning how to crack an egg.

As a teenager most of my hours were spent watching movies with friends, all crammed into someone’s basement, supplies of Doritos and M&Ms collected from the corner store, or else spent in downtown shopping malls, or walking through city parks and streets, brimming with youthful excitement about our lives opening up before us.

As an adult, the spaces I have occupied in my free hours have revolved mostly around our local coffee shop. This is where my girlfriends and I choose to spend time when we have some major life event to discuss (a breakup, a promotion, a relationship issue, a new art project). This is where I have had many memorable dates. This is where I’ve worked on some of my favourite film projects.

But the coffee shops in my neighbourhood provide more than just a space for hangouts. If you stumble across the right one, your local coffee shop can become a safe harbour for those seeking the comfort of other people. In an era where attendance rates are plummeting at places of worship, there has never been such a hunger for gathering or for community. Whether you are recovering from illness, unemployment, grief or loneliness, a good coffee shop can act as a soothing balm for the suffering heart.

In a shop filled with caring staff and quirky regulars, our life narratives are enriched as we begin to understand our own story through regular conversation-even if it is small-talkish. In a spot where customers and baristas spend enough time with one another, our heartbreaks and triumphs are recognized by others. We feel listened to, cared about. Even our absences are noticed.

There are all kinds of currencies exchanged in a local coffee shop: money, coffee, kind words and gestures of warmth. But the most powerful currency of all has to do with love-with loving your neighbour, loving the stranger, loving the community you live in and learning to love yourself.