As I entered this small sanctuary, my eyes panned the room in an effort to take in the sacred little space. I didn’t arrive too early, not wanting to be one of the first to get there, but that meant that many of the seats were already taken. All the seats in the back were gone. As I paused, just inside the rear door, a kindly gentleman greeted me. He was a good ambassador. He welcomed me. Introduced himself. Asked my name. Then, repeated it – just to be sure. He asked what inspired me to come, and invited me to return for an event he was leading in a couple of weeks.
We could learn something valuable from his simple invitation in our church. Even if I had no idea whether I would return, I knew that I was truly welcome in this place.
As I entered the room, I made my way through the crowd to take a seat. Of the 25 or so folks there, I was neither the oldest nor the youngest. The young woman with cobalt hair sat in the back with some peers, while a cohort of folks with silver hair sat in the middle. A rotund black man sat next to a middle-aged white man with long hair. A group of Millennials congregated to one side, as they sipped their coffees. The man who stepped up to the microphone had long, wiry, salt and pepper curls, pulled into a loose pony tail. I wondered if I had ever seen such a diverse group of people gathered in one place.
We would gain something valuable from such beautiful diversity in our church. Even though I had never been there before, I knew that all were truly welcome in this place.
As I entered the experience, I opened my heart to the gifts unfurling before me. One after another, these people stepped up to the microphone to share some of their story. Some were eloquent. Others weren’t. Some had been sharing for years. Others spoke for the first time. Most shared their own poetry. A few shared something they found. One of the Millennials shrugged the title of rap artist, but the rhythm and beat of his poem was indisputable. One of the silver-haired men shuffled to the stage and sat down, before sharing his poems with a small tremor in his voice like the one in his hands. One man spoke with a thick accent, using the words of his second language to speak his truth before others. One young woman read her artful collection of thoughts from her phone’s screen, using this electronic extension of her being to extend herself before others.
One man began with a pre-amble to his poetry. “I thought I did this so that you could hear what I have to say, but that is not why I do it. It turns out that I do this so that I can hear what I have to say.”
In my storytelling adventure, I discovered a small coffee shop sanctuary of welcome and embrace: a safe haven for people to share who they are and what they feel, knowing that they will be celebrated for contributing. You see, no matter how eloquent or expressive, powerful or persuasive each person may or may not be, on this small stage they are met with delight, and appreciated with applause. They are being nurtured in a community of care and compassion. I love that. Is it any wonder I felt oddly at home in this sacred little space of diversity and welcome?