by Grace Franklin
It’s interesting how one thing leads to another.
A simple meeting in the park has brought me to my present role of Travelling Barista.
Coffee aficionados will note I am, as yet, unqualified. But this self imposed title has given me a lot of scope to (a) drink coffee (b) meet people I know in the park (c) be a listening ear.
The phone call that started it was from a friend who doesn’t have wifi at home. With libraries closed he had no chance to join any ZOOM session and he desperately wanted to TALK to SOMEONE! Since I was available, I took my flasks, some baking from the tin, wipes and masks, gloves and washable things to sit on.
Marching boldly into the park at the height of summer, it was a delight to have some reason to ‘get out’ and walk about. For whatever unconscious reason, I’d been resistant to taking any outdoor exercise. I was very comfortable in my hibernation mode, sloth speed and dream-like existence during Home Stay as I prefer to call lockdown. So this request to meet and talk was good to get me moving.
Not long afterwards a student from the Church’s International Welcome Club asked the same favour: ‘can we meet and talk, please?’ ‘No problem!’ was my reply.
On arrival that time, I found the student sitting quiet and still under a tree. He was wearing a ‘hoodie’. He told me that while waiting he’d felt something at the back of his neck. When he brushed it away – a little bird flutter out and flew away. An amusing and surreal conversation ensured with speculation that if he’d sat a bit longer, the bird might have built a nest in his hood and laid some eggs. Then he would have had to remain there till the eggs hatched! On the way home, some little rhymes about that scenario ‘hatched’ in my mind.
The result was a limerick writing competition for the Club members. There were two categories. One for people using English as another language. The other for native English speakers. A total of 11 people submitted the five lined verses that constitute a limerick. The two judges were ‘hard cop’ with extensive knowledge of the English language and a near professional writer of limericks and ‘soft cop’ a long time Club Team member with a lifetime of experience looking after people.
Speaking strictly – ‘hard cop’ felt none came up to the high technical mark she’d set but all were of merit in their own way. So she more than matched the modest sum the Club had set aside for prizes. ‘Soft cop’ recognised three were special enough to receive some extra recognition. So another member of the Club Team crafted beautiful tartan face coverings as gifts to them.
The ‘Buzz’ created among Club members was tangible and bounded across borders and around the world. Some talented poets were revealed too.
By this time, I was thirsty for more ‘face mask to face mask’ meetings in the park. Any park! Have car will travel.
Now around 7 different parks have been visited. More than a dozen people met. One graduation, a new baby and two birthdays have been celebrated. Anxieties about war, health, mental health, exams, job hunting, affairs of the heart and everyday life and work have been shared.
After each encounter prayers of thanks are offered.
After all, as John says in chapter 4: verse 11: Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.
Love, coffee and time to talk in the park all go together very naturally. Thanks be to God.