By Sister Jacqueline Goodin, CSJ
It’s amazing what two cups of coffee (or tea) can do for us in the morning. It’s like turning a light on in your head. But can coffee’s near magical powers extend to larger areas, say, world peace? I practice peace-making whenever I am aware of the potential for relationship-building, and choose to take the time to share time with another person.
Some of us may be familiar with the spiritual practice of mindfulness—that is, being aware of everything around us in creation, of our physical self, and of every movement-by-movement action that we make. When we practice mindfulness—even during a busy work day while taking care of the children or shopping for groceries—we slow our inside and outside self. Mindfulness ultimately helps us to appreciate the reality that we are in, to honor what needs honoring, and to consider thoughtfully our next steps.
So where does coffee come in? It’s a metaphor for taking time, as we would when we savor a good cup of coffee or tea. Mindfulness can be applied to how we are with each other. I admit, many times I miss the potential. But more and more I am becoming aware of the possibility of taking time to be with another person fully. This requires that I set aside my own desires, expectations, or agenda for that person. I choose to empty myself so that I can truly hear the story of the one across from me. I choose to give the other the gift of my time, without rush. People have such interesting stories about themselves. As I listen with full attention, I can hear the connections between the other’s life and my own.
During moments when we share, we become one human family. Sometimes it feels easier to take time to connect with others when we do so over steaming cups of coffee and a lovely bit of pastry. It’s also the perfect invitation: “Let’s meet for coffee!”
But coffee and pastry aren’t essential. You can practice mindfulness at the grocery store when you look a busy cashier in the eye and ask, “How’s it going today?” and then really listen to their answer. This helps that person feel appreciated for how hard she/he is working, and like a human being again. Every person I encounter is important and worthy of my attention.
Sometimes it’s harder to be attentive to those we are most close with, and sometimes it’s easier. But, it’s really challenging to pay attention, with true respect and openness, when we are with a stranger (from the Gospel perspective can anyone really be a stranger?) or with someone we know thinks very differently from us.
Perhaps if we knew that world peace would be the ultimate reward, would we not invite someone to share pastry and cup of coffee with us?
About the Author
Sister Jacqueline Goodin, CSJ, is a member of the Congregation Leadership Team, and an avid coffee lover. She reminds us that our time spent over coffee with another will have even greater impact if the coffee or tea is grown and harvested in an ecologically sustainable and just manner.