When a Community Dies…

Dunn BrosFor most of the past year, I have spent Tuesday mornings, Wednesday mornings, and a handful of Friday nights hanging out at Dunn Bros Coffee shop — a local coffee shop that, while a franchise, is at least NOT $tarbuck$.

After returning from a week-long mission trip in Oklahoma last week, I was stunned and dismayed to see a “Closed for Business” sign on the door this morning. Dunn Bros was my fortress of solitude (comfortable chairs for reading, and free wifi for surfing), gathering place (for three philosophy/theology/culture discussion & fellowship groups I led), and ad hoc meeting place for just about any occasion. They hung artwork from local artists on the walls, and featured live music from local musicians on Friday and Saturday nights.

I sat in my car outside the closed doors and darkened windows for almost an hour, and watched countless other cars pull up, their occupants get out and read the sign, and then drive away in quiet resignation. Maybe they all went across the street to Starbucks (sadly, there’s a starbucks across the street from EVERYTHING these days). Maybe they went looking for another local coffee shop.

But I don’t think it was really the coffee that drew most people there in the first place. I think it was the community — the owner and baristas who knew everyone by name, and would frequently pause in their work to carry on a conversation with the patrons. I was always amazed at how people would randomly run into someone they knew there (I did it, too) and hours of conversation would ensue. I even accidentally met someone I knew (and had forgotten about) in college a decade ago, and briefly rekindled a friendship.

What happens when a place of community dies suddenly and unexpectedly? Where do the people go?

I know I’m painting myself as a major geek (big surprise), but I keep remembering Star Wars, Episode IV, when the Millenium Falcon emerges out of hyperspace to discover the remains of Planet Alderaan, recently destroyed by the Death Star: Obi-Wan says, “I felt a great disturbance in the force — as if millions of voices suddenly cried out in terror, then were suddenly silenced.” Yes, it’s an exaggeration, but it captures some of what I felt this morning.

Here’s to a great little community whose light shone briefly and brilliantly. May it come again someday in another form.

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