For some reason, my family has this Starbucks mug from Shanghai. I’m pretty sure I’ve never been, and my family probably hasn’t, but there it is, sitting among the rest of our mismatched mugs. My sister and I bond over baking and cooking together, and so tonight we are making a vegan chocolate cake. The recipe calls for some coffee, which meant that I obviously had to make an extra cup for myself (to those who find themselves worrying for me at this point, caffeine unfortunately doesn’t keep me up, which I found out to my cost in college). While she makes vegan frosting from scratch without a recipe for our cake, I’m sitting here nursing that cup and writing this blog post. I think we can all agree on who’s more talented. (She is.)
Whenever I find myself drinking out of an actual mug, it strikes me that millions of people have told stories over mugs. People become transparent, vulnerable, even emotional over a cup of tea or coffee. Honesty and authenticity are, for some reason, linked together in my mind with a cup of coffee. Somehow, the simple act of sitting together and drinking some sort of classy, caffeinated beverage allows people to reveal who they really are.
This is one of the many reasons why I love spending time in coffee shops, doing homework or reading. I get my work done (Don’t worry, Mom!) but I also have the opportunity to watch the strangers sitting at the next table over, or the couple across the shop. I have the chance to see them say what’s on their hearts and minds, even if I can’t hear what the words are.
The act of being vulnerable with somebody is really difficult. Too often, we’re hurt by the people we trust. Either they do something to break our trust, or they just fade into the tapestry of life, the busyness of the world around us. The cynic in me sometimes wants to say, “Enough! I’m not trusting anyone ever again. It’s easier just to go it alone.” The truth of the matter is, it’s not easier to go it alone. People are going to hurt and disappoint each other, but like I’ve said before, people will also go above and beyond to lift each other up and pull each other out of the depths.
“Words are, in my not-so-humble opinion, our most inexhaustible source of magic. Capable of both inflicting injury, and remedying it,” says Albus Dumbledore. There’s power in sitting with somebody and letting them tell their story. There’s strength in the words we use and the words we choose. For centuries, humanity has used stories to convey messages, themes, deeper meanings. I think we’re all pretty good at using words to hurt people, to be honest. I think it’s easy for us when we’re angry to say things that we know are going to hurt the other person, even if we don’t mean it. I know it’s easier for me to think of mean things than it is to think of nice things sometimes. But, sitting with somebody over a cup of coffee, using our words to help each other and build each other up? That’s remedying injury.
Let’s start remedying the injuries we all are carrying with us.