Thursday, October 16, 2008

Coffee pot values

Early in my tenure at Central Dallas Ministries--it was summer 1994, first week on the job as I recall it--I bought a giant, shiny coffee maker.

I proudly placed my new pot in the middle of our interview room in the Haskell Resource Center, known back then as the "Food Pantry."

As I arranged my new offering to the community on a table, complete with all the coffee fixin's we would need, a long-time volunteer who drove in once a week from outside the community approached me with what I'd call aggressive bewilderment.

"What in the world are you doing?" she asked.

"I'm making coffee for our guests," I replied with delighted excitement.

A frown rushed across her face and stiffened her entire frame.

With a mixture of amazement and anger, she counseled me, "You can't do that! If you make coffee, these people will never leave!"

I informed her that my intention was not to rush people along, but to get acquainted with as many neighborhood residents as possible.

At that, she turned quickly on her heel and strode out of the interview room. Needless to say, as we opened volunteer and leadership positions to the community, she decided not to return.

I've relived that awkward, bewildering encounter again and again across the years.

The attitude back of her comment reveals volumes about one perspective on poverty. It goes something like this:

"Well, 'these people' (I always flinch at that phrase because I know what is coming next) are a real problem. It is our duty to share what we have, but if they were only more responsible, resourceful, not so stupid and lazy and not so dependent, we wouldn't have to feel obligated to be down here at all!"

Talk about joy in one's work!

The most important thing to folks with this attitude is the process, the project, the problem, the procedures and the penance.

My new coffee pot signaled a different set of values and a completely different perspective on life in the city and on poverty.

Our coffee pot values include welcoming people, longing to hear and know people, extending hospitality and receiving wisdom and knowledge from our neighbors.

Our coffee pot screamed to everyone, "Hey, slow down! Have a seat. Tell us your story. In this house you'll find that we really care about you, who you are, what you're dreaming and how we can find our way together."

I love coffee.

The pot's not new anymore, but it cooks a good brew every morning our doors are open.

May it always be so.



Dr Robin Rushlo said...

Coffee is a greta community center. The social factor is huge. That is why I am proud to be part of a coffee company making a difference in the world giving 10% to Kids Charities and giving the Community a Certified healthy coffee that is Fair Trade , organic and best of all low acid and no Caffeine problems. For more info go to

Thanks DR Robin Rushlo
aka The Blindguy

Larry James said...

Normally, almost always, I remove commercial appeals. In this case, I'll let this one stand out of my own deep love for coffee, what it usually provokes and the fair trade aspect of this offer!

Dean Smith said...

This is why I love working for Central Dallas Ministries (Urban Connection - Austin).

Eric Livingston said...

And then after everyone is served, you might be able to gather up an extra 12 pots of leftover coffee. Things like that tend to happen in the presence of God's love.

Frank Bellizzi said...

I'll drink to that. Coffee, of course.