"I was taken by the power that savoring a simple cup of coffee can have to connect people and create community." Howard Schultz, CEO of Starbucks
Coffee is my love language. Anyone who knows me would agree with this statement. One of my greatest joys is to meet a friend in a coffee shop, sip a steaming hot cup of coffee, and spend time being with them, investing in our friendship. Time stands still as we connect over coffee.
Yet, coffee shops have taken a big hit during Covid-19. Many shut down very quickly as the pandemic took over our world, limiting coffee shop visits to drive-thru only. I was one of the many coffee lovers who would resort to drive-thru coffee pick-ups with friends where we would park cars next to each other and chat from the safe distance of our cars. Truly, in light of all the challenges our society faced during the pandemic, this small inconvenience hardly seems worth noting. Yet, life-giving connections that happen within a coffee shop build community, and being in community is a vital part of life.
Through my church community, I have had the opportunity to meet a dear friend, Angela. Angela and I have many things in common—a love of reading, gardening and art. We also share a great love for coffee. Give us a good cup of coffee and we will happily chat for hours. When we couldn’t meet in coffee shops, we shifted plans. I had the pleasure of visiting her at her house for coffee.
As a result of visiting Angela at her home, I had the opportunity to get to know her son, Michael, who lives with them. Michael is a young adult who has autism. I’ve learned a few things about Michael as I’ve spent more time at their home: He has a big sweet tooth like me, he loves listening to music loudly in the car, just like me (though he’s into more retro music than I am), and he is really skilled at gymnastics.
Throughout the pandemic, many of the services that provided him with access to community in which he could thrive were taken away from him. Suddenly, Angela and Michael found themselves incredibly isolated from the community, often alone in the house for hours on end with no outlet for social interaction for either of them. Ever so slowly things are opening up and Micheal is able to reconnect with his community.
Recently, Angela messaged me, of course asking if I wanted to have coffee, but the location would be a bit different this time. She asked if I would like to visit The Inclusion Coffeehouse in Hamilton. This coffee shop is located inside the Bernie Morelli Recreation Centre. The coffee shop is a part of the L’Arche Hamilton community, which is a community for people with and without intellectual disabilities.
We walked into the big open area in the community centre that is designated for the coffeehouse and were immediately welcomed by everyone. There were games and puzzles set out should you want to use them. I don’t think I have ever been served by a more engaged and attentive group of people. The coffee is great, and I am picky!
Looking around the space you knew this was a place where friendships were fostered. As we were leaving, someone piped up, "Bye, Michael!'' Isn’t that what we all want in life? We want to be in spaces where people know us, are happy to see us, and will miss us when we leave. That’s exactly what L’Arche has created when they developed the Inclusion Coffeehouse.
Pictured on the left: Jessica, Janice, and Dave (three employees of The Inclusion Coffeehouse)
However, what if we take the example of inclusion that this coffeehouse has provided for us as a challenge within our own neighborhoods. How can you foster belonging and connection in your community?
If you live anywhere close to Hamilton, Ontario, I encourage you to visit them soon. The Inclusion Coffeehouse is open every Tuesday from 10 am to 1 pm and is hoping to extend these hours in the coming months.
To find out more about the Inclusion Coffeehouse and support their work, follow them here: