Archived Story

Nowak: Coffee offers small cup of salvation

Published 2:17pm Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Jan Nowak, director of caring ministries/social services

The Salvation Army

Thanksgiving is a time which reminds us to count blessings. We often forget to be thankful for simple things. Maybe this story from our files will help reshape your focus.

For most of us, starting our day out with a stout cup of “Joe” is a standard practice. Why,..we don’t even hardly think about it; we just stumble toward the automatic coffee maker, which we pre-set the night before, so as to have our cup of liquid gold ready when we are. Yep, we take it for granted. In many of our homes, coffee is a staple, a necessity, a daily practice that we think about as much as we do breathing regularly.

Recently, I was caused to think differently because of some new guests in our Salvation Army offices. A family came in seeking pantry assistance. They were new to us and had never before found themselves in the position of needing to seek assistance. Immediately upon entering our space, one of the women was taken back by the rich and warm aroma of a freshly brewed pot of coffee. She raised her nose and closed her eyes, her nostrils flared as she strained to take in as much of the aroma as possible. She exclaimed, “Man , that coffee smells good.” She was quick to accept the invitation to enjoy a cup, stating “I take mine black, please.” She clutched the cup tenderly with both hands as if it were a precious chalice, containing life- saving water. Never before had I witnessed anyone drink a cup of coffee with more reverence and appreciation. This family was merging households, cutting corners, eliminating everything that was not absolutely essential and still they were having financial challenges. Job losses and expired unemployment benefits plagued their home. Coffee, along with many other items, had become a nonessential.

As we proceeded through the intake interview for pantry assistance, the woman timidly asked, “Do you ever give away coffee?” As we were explaining the pantry is solely donation supported, our volunteer pantry worker was overhearing the conversation and went to work scurrying through the shelves. When the grocery bags were brought out by the volunteer, perched atop one of the bags was a jar of Folger’s Instant Crystals.

As she gathered her family’s grocery bags up in her arms, her delirious joy was truly audible when she spied the coffee jar. With breathy exclamation the woman said, “ Oh, something to make our days resemble normal again. THANK YOU!!!”

After the family departed, the three of us present for this visit stood looking at each other, lacking words to capture what we had just experienced.

With a simple jar of instant coffee we had lifted a woman’s spirits, helped a struggling household and maybe, just maybe, given a jar of hope.

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