Placing Value

A while back, I wrote about how much I appreciate the sometimes random chances in life. How when we are open to it, when we create space for it, these sometimes unplanned things can enter our lives. They can be rewarding, enriching, enlightening and filled with fun.

In recent weeks, I’ve not allowed much randomness into my life. I’ve been a servant to my calendar. If there’s not something scheduled for any given hour, there soon would be. If something wasn’t on the calendar, there was a good chance it wasn’t going to happen.

This morning I found myself with some unencumbered time. That didn’t mean I planned to waste it. I just didn’t have anything planned. So I headed down to Bluebird Books to drink some coffee and do a little planning before I really started the day in earnest.

Then Melody walked by, holding a bunch of carrots she had picked from Simple Abundance at the Farmer’s Market. We spent 20 minutes or so talking about a variety of topics. I’m glad we talked. Aside from being a fun and meaningful conversation, it reminded me that I have some long undone projects that I’d like to get started. (Namely a series of children’s books that I have notes for but for which I’ve never set pen to paper).

Also, it cracked the door open on what would be a morning filled with random meetings and conversation.

Like the talk I had with Jessica, a former Hutch News reporter who now teaches Kindergarten. She had 25 kids in her class! Try to imagine that – keeping 25 kids ages 5 or 6 all contained within a room, under some sense of control and attempting to teach them something.

I also ran into Dell, who was working at Bluebird as she does every Saturday morning, where she reads stories to a group of kids. We didn’t get to talk much, but it was nice to see her and talk briefly as she went about her work.

Then Ryan came in with his mom Shirley, who is visiting from out of town. In talking with them, I found out that Kathy Hanks was coming down to visit with them. They asked if I’d stay, and I was glad for the chance.

We all sat down to talk, and it wasn’t long before Jade and Alex came in with baby Athena. They came by our table, and we all talked for awhile. Mostly, though Kathy and Shirley played with Athena. But I imagine that’s to be expected.

Before all this happened, I wasn’t quite sure what I’d write about today. I’ve been slacking on putting up new blogs the last couple of weeks, so I wanted to be sure and get one up today. But there, with so many of my friends gathered together in one place, I knew exactly what I’d write today.

The importance of a place cannot be overstated.

Without a Bluebird Books, what happened today doesn’t happen. There is no random meeting with Melody. Or Jessica. Or Dell, Ryan, Shirley, Jade, Alex, Kathy. There is no hours long conversation between people, spanning a wide swath of material. But we do have Bluebird, and thanks to that, there’s a venue for these random meetings to take place. Meetings that might not otherwise happen if there wasn’t a central place, with enough going on to draw so many people to it, to serve as a natural gathering place for people in Hutchinson.

To be sure, there are other places in Hutchinson this might have happened. Scuttlebutt and Metro are other local coffee shops in which I’ve had similar meetings with others, and I enjoy those places as well. But today it was Bluebird, and that’s largely because it’s become a place people know they want to go to on a Saturday morning.

In a time when we can both be connected and disconnected by electronics, when online shopping is wreaking havoc on traditional retail outlets, when information is shared from a distance, and with little accountability, it was this place that brought so many people I enjoy together. For all the technology in the world, it was something as old as coffee and a brick building that served as this vehicle for a random gathering.

It makes sense, though: Coffee Houses have long been gathering places where people can share their thoughts and ideas. Here’s an excerpt from an article on Historic UK:

“In 17th and 18th century England, coffeehouses were also popular places for people from all walks of life to go and meet, chat, gossip and have fun, whilst enjoying the latest fashion, a drink newly arrived in Europe from Turkey – coffee.

I also remember reading this idea in the book “The History of the World in 6 Glasses.”

Beer was first made in the Fertile Crescent and by 3000 BC was so important to Mesopotamia and Egypt that it was being used to pay wages. In ancient Greece, wine became the main export of a vast seaborne trade, helping to spread Greek culture abroad. After the fall of Rome, spirits such as brandy and rum, made using a process devised by Arab alchemists, fueled the Age of Exploration, fortifying seamen on long voyages and oiling the pernicious slave trade. Coffee also originated in the Arab world and went on to inspire scientific, financial and political revolutions in Europe during the Age of Reason, when coffeehouses became centres of intellectual exchange. And hundreds of years after the Chinese began drinking tea, it became especially popular in Britain, with far-reaching effects on British foreign policy. Finally, though carbonated drinks were invented in 18th-century Europe they became a 20th-century phenomenon, and Coca-Cola in particular is the leading symbol of globalization.

For me, however, what happened this morning reminded me about the value of a place in a community. I arrived at Bluebird around 8 a.m. and began drinking coffee. Shortly after 11 a.m. I had to pull myself out of the cafe to get on with the rest of my day.

In between, though, was filled with friends and experiences, all made possible by a place that drew us all to it – even if for different reasons at first.



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