Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Why I love coffee shops...

On the Camino words aren't always necessary but a kind ear,
a place at a table and a cup of coffee will always be available -
I guarantee that!

It's been nine months since I arrived in Santiago. If I told you that not a day goes by that I do not think about my Camino experience, I would be a big fat liar. To call it a hostile takeover of my life would not be fair, as it has in fact been a gradual, peaceful but total invasion of my life.
I've had a light switched on inside of me that drives me in a new way. I don't always understand it, but I recognise it and it just feels very right. It fits.
I somehow absorb things with a different mindset and my focus has shifted to being much more aware of those around me and of how my actions impact on them. Hence the title of this piece - 'Why I love coffee shops.'
Coffee shops are places where you have the incredible privilege of sitting opposite someone, have them look you in the eye and actually talk to you. You can hear their voice, you experience their emotions and you can truly build and nurture friendships. You can laugh together, you can cry together, you can share good news and you can say goodbye with a hug. You can reach out and be heard. Your friendship can make a difference in a way that no written note can ever hope to do.
That is why I love coffee shops.
On the Camino I met a wonderful young man who would often take his place at a table in a coffee shop. He'd order something to drink and as pilgrims arrived, he would casually invite them to join him, often offering them something to drink. I was fascinated by his behaviour because without fail, he was surrounded by people, young and old, all eventually chatting to each other as if they'd known each other forever!
I noticed how even the most introverted young people ended up at his table. I knew instinctively that this young man had discovered the true spirit of the Camino. He had found the most precious gift that anyone could offer to another human being and that many religions consider to be one of the greatest virtues.
He had found the meaning of the word compassion.
My encyclopedia says the English noun compassion comes from Latin and means 'to suffer together with'. It goes on to say that compassion is the understanding or empathy for the suffering of others and the active desire to alleviate another's suffering.
Isn't that a key element of true and meaningful friendship? We all have things in our lives that cause us hurt and unhappiness at times but how often do we think about the fact that those around us may experience exactly the same, or worse? In fact, have you ever thought that your own actions might be causing a friend to hurt - that phone call that you've meant to make forever but are too 'busy' to make or that message that you receive but somehow just always leave on the 'to get back to' list and never actually answer?

I am guilty of this!
Seeing that young man living compassion as I witnessed him chatting to people along the Way for many weeks, made me feel so incredibly humble. It made me realise how important it is to shift the focus from myself and really listen to others. How important it is to identify and be aware of the needs of my friends.
How important it it is to pick up that telephone and let my voice be heard. To hear a voice on the other side respond. How important it is to get together across a table and share a cup of coffee. How important it is to care.
Our lives have been taken over by social media and I use many of these options every day. But today I am reminding you as I am myself, that writing a whatsapp message, sending an e-mail or a facebook note can never take the place of a coffee shop date! Never.
The Camino has a lovely way of teaching one important lessons. I sometimes needed to hear something more than once to actually get it. Lessons regarding the importance of compassion and living life as a compassionate human being came to me in many forms. In my next post I will tell you about a powerful sermon that lasted about an hour and kept me captivated, even though I understood exactly one word!
Make that call today and have a cup of coffee with a friend. Put the same amount of sugar in your cup as you've always done, but this time, add a huge measure of compassion!
I started my walk in Spain with one friend at my side. I arrived in Santiago having met people who have added immeasurable value to my life. A new family of friends with whom I will stay connected to for a very long time. We found and shared that one very great gift that a pilgrimage blesses you with. We discovered how to be compassionate human beings. 


  1. I can just picture this young man and all the friend made along the way and what it meant for the ones he invited. Lovely Emilene.

    1. He was but one person who really stood out because of his actions. I will relate a few more of these accounts during the next few weeks. It's really interesting how one's focus changes on the Camino! You notice little things that often turn out to be profound messages!

  2. Lovely post Emilene! We seem to forget that the lovely tools that I use to stay in touch with you are great for us. The incredible long distance that separates us. But why oh why do we use it so flippantly with people who live right down the street. I know how often people disparage "social media" but in it's place it is a fabulous tool. But not in place of doing as you say here, sitting across from a friend and looking into their eyes and talking. Hearing their voice, the tone, the cadence, the inflection ...those are hard to come by on the internet or via text message. So here I will do what I can with the only means I have at my disposal, for now, :-)

    1. And this is exactly why I use these tools every day as well - without it friendships like ours would be impossible! But one of the lights at the end of this cybertunnel is the possibility of one day sharing that very special cup of coffee somewhere in the world! What a great gift to look forward to! Can you imagine how special it will be if we actually get to meet on the Camino... :)

      Even though we didn't walk together in Spain you are one of the most special members of my Camino 'family' Ms Ksam! I'd like to think that that coffee shop date will happen before we are great-grandmothers!

    2. What would the Camino be without the unexpecter coffeeshop, that blessed feeling of relief when the backpack is off and you put up your feet. Cafe con Leche por favor...

  3. And hi ksam too!

  4. great post!! am walking the Camino with my father in June - what would you say is the best path? we have only 25 days.

    thanks and would love if you could e-mail me... yogi@yogiroth.com - thanks!!!


Thank you so much for taking the time to leave a comment, I welcome your input!