Five Pounds of Coffee

Over the Christmas break I got to spend some time with my wife’s family down in Florida. My wife’s family are transplants from New York City and are a blend of Italian and Latin cultures. They are very family oriented so when they get together it is very active, vibrant, and warm.

blue like jazzWhile I was in Florida I finished Donald Miller’s book Blue Like Jazz. My understanding is this book was the hot book of 2007 much in the way that The Shack had been in 2008. Overall I enjoyed the book. It is basically a series of character sketchs strung together to illustrate Miller’s view of what community is or maybe should be in his current Christian faith journey. The book is pretty heavy on anti-establishment, anti-traditional church, and anti-republican rhetoric, however at it’s core Blue Like Jazz is really just a seeker story taking place in Portland, Oregon where all the rhetoric listed above is pretty much cultivated and ingrained in the culture anyways.

The big take away for me from Blue Like Jazz was Miller’s realization that community is the key to the faith journey. While the concept is not new or exclusive to Miller, his presentation was thought provoking and really made me evaluate who I try and build relationships with and why. At my core, I want to know others and be known by others. I think I am guilty of sometimes wrapping those desires in the context of the faith communities I plug into instead of investing in the communities I find myself in with work, school, and my apartment complex being just a few examples. I am challenged to be more like Jesus and allow myself to know and be known by whomever crosses my path.

So in Florida, my father-in-law Richie was talking to me about his days in New York. He was describing this porch he had built onto his house so he and my mother-in-law could host all of their friends over for coffee. He said “we used to have friends over so often, I would go through five pounds of coffee a week”. As I thought about what Rich had said I realized that he distilled in one statement the concept of community. He was a guy with friends, he built a porch, and brewed some coffee. No hoops, no credentials, just community.

What about you guys? How do you define community? What does community look like to you?

Grace and Peace.



7 thoughts on “Five Pounds of Coffee

  1. Tony,
    As you know I am also a NYC (suburb) transplant and we had a similar ritual at our house. The coffee pot (old fashioned percolator) was always on, then every Sunday my mom would make some form of bulk food, usually something Italian like Ziti or Lasagna and it was basically an open invite for friends and family. The conversation would last for hours and although the ritual died by the time I was in High School I still have fond memories and wonder why we can’t do something like this now. And they say New Yorkers aren’t friendly…

  2. Tony,

    Good post! I like reading reviews of books. I really enjoyed this book as well. Saw the link on a previous post listing President Bush’s reading list. Pretty amazing. I’m inspired. If the President of the U.S. can read that much I think I could do a little better myself.

    Sorry don’t have time to answer your question on community…i’d have to write a book! But from my experience community happens through time, shared experience, and appropriate openness, honesty, and vulnerability. If you are looking for any more books to read on community, let me know – i’ve got a shelf full to recommend to you.

    And by the way, the next time you see me, ask me what i’m reading!

    Thanks for blogging man, and encouraging me to do the same!

  3. Beautiful post Tony! It brought me back to many wonderful memories that my parents had made for us and they did not even know how important that would be for me someday. The sense of community we had in our neighborhood was such a beautiful feeling and I search for that for us and our children, the sense of belonging somewhere with some people. Yes as Jim mentioned New Yorkers actually can be friendly but do not cross us lol just kidding. I love you and thank you for letting me remembering growing up in that environment. Anyone want a cup of coffee? I have coffee, a porch and conversation?

  4. Bro,

    I think what we have with our fellow bloggers here is a good definition of community. But sadly technology and the ever changing American culture have made the gatherings at the neighbors house a thing of the past. Today it seems like we are so busy and have so many things to keep us occupied that we have little time for community activities. You have to remember back in the day we only had 3 channels on TV, no VCR, no computer or video games. In my neighborhood it was football, riding bikes/skateboards, playing hide and go seek.ect..ect..I think some of the best time we had as a kids were playing tennis, swimming and playing football in the snow. Oh yeah and having a no holds barred wrestling match in the house 😉 So the question is how can we get that back and let our kids experience that? I guess we just have to go old school every once in a while and turn off the technology and break out the classics. I know it’s a lot easier said than done but it’s a good goal for 2009. Gotta plan some stuff ..Love ya man

  5. @Chris
    It’s not hard but it takes different thinking, for example we spent new years eve at our neighbors playing Yahtzee! The problem at our house is that we have a zoo with the 3 dogs and 6 cats; it’s hard to keep up and have a clean house and then the dogs bark when people come over. I don’t think this is something you do ‘for the kids’ I think you just do it and since they emulate what you do (more than you think) they will catch on.
    God bless,

  6. Hey Bro,
    We used to be a front porch society….like inviting folks over for coffee….but now……we have now changed to a back porch society. We live in gated communities, have front porches that are just big enough for a front door….back porches are big and protected. A long way away from how I grew up. I do not know how to get that back……

  7. Our church has a small group ministry, and all members are encouraged to be a part of one. Each group has about 12-16 members at the most and we meet weekly to study and pray together. This has been huge in defining modern community for me. We help with each other’s kids, eat together, call each other during the week and encourage each other through struggles. But only a couple of us enjoy coffee so it’s more like having people over for Diet Coke and dessert. 🙂

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