by Clelia Sweeney
Every afternoon at closing, I make a 100-cup pot of coffee and set it on a timer to brew at 8 am the next morning. If I falter or am forgetful at any point in the process – if the timer isn’t set correctly, the pot isn’t switched on, the filter isn’t cleaned out – then I have to tell a crowd of tired, cold, and hungry community members that it will be another 45 minutes until they can have their first cup of coffee. It also means that I will have to stumble around until then, getting hygiene kits and putting away donations in a bleary haze. Coffee is very important.
In many ways, coffee is the great equalizer. A senator needs his morning Starbucks with the same ardor and intensity as the person on the sidewalk outside the Starbucks waiting for his spare change. It’s the first requirement for an office, an A.A. meeting, a church reception, a soup kitchen, a diner, a college dining hall, and for Love Wins. When I meet somebody who is visiting us for the first time, I always offer them a cup of coffee from the kitchen. It’s an invitation to relax, stay a while, and partake of our community in a small but significant way. The warmth of the cup in your hands imparts a feeling of comfort and stillness while the subtle lift of caffeine makes staying awake a little easier.
There’s cultural meaning encoded in a cup of coffee. It’s what you drink when you need to wake up, focus, and get things done. I have a cup of coffee beside me as I write this. It helps you to face the challenges of the day, to feel like a functioning adult. Your coffee can also tell a lot about your class and attitudes. We use powder creamer for our coffee, and pour sugar from a plastic jug. Carrying a latte in a white paper cup gives a much different impression than holding a ceramic mug filled with drip coffee. At Love Wins, we all drink from the same pot and pick from the same gallimaufry of donated mugs.
Since the function of our space is primarily a place to be during the day, we don’t promise to have a great many amenities. We will always have a public agender bathroom, space to take a nap, books to read, a community phone; and we will always have coffee, creamer, sugar, peanut butter, jelly, and bread. These are the building blocks of hospitality, from which we can make Love Wins an open and welcoming place for all.