A beautiful sunny morning in Leeds today, and we opened the cafe with apprehension: Last week was very quiet, despite the excitement of opening for two days for the first time. We had welcomed fewer people in total than the regular number of people in just one day a few weeks ago, so this week we were hoping for a change and nervous that maybe our popularity was waning just at the point that we were hoping to expand.
Our regular volunteers arrived, and the slow trickle of people began to make their way into the cafe, order a drink and something to eat and sit outside enjoying the sunshine.
Glancing over, it looked as if this group of people had known each other for a long time; they were sitting relaxed in the sunshine. Someone was knitting, all were chatting, and there was an obvious warmth to the conversation to match the temperature. What made it even more special was that not all of these people had known each other less than an hour ago. This is what makes toastlovecoffee unique and special, and it is this that makes me most proud. Happy days!
A gentleman arrived soon after. I walked over to greet him and then realised it was a guy I had met over four months ago when I was promoting the cafe in a local drop-in centre for asylum seekers and refugees. I invited him to join me with a coffee and we started talking.
His English is good but he lacks confidence and prefers that we speak slowly. Unfortunately for me, when I get excited about something, my speech tends to speed up. We relaxed into a conversation, then at one point he shook his head and asked me to repeat what I had said; he couldn’t understand a word. Attheendoftheday. At the end of the day. At The End Of The Day. Ahha! Yes. We laughed, then picked up the conversation again.
Inside, two volunteers and a local regular were chatting while preparing sandwiches for lunch (a regular new feature of the menu!). A recently retired doctor, a 25 year old PhD student and a regular local guy in his seventies who spent his working life on the markets. On the surface, each are worlds apart from each other, but at TLC there is the space to come together and find commonality rather than difference to spark conversations and enjoy each other’s company.
Later on in the morning there was hugs, laughter and chatter as a few more people gathered around a table outside. This time, they did know each other from outside of toastlovecoffee; they were participants in an interfaith youth leadership programme who had obviously arranged to meet up this morning at TLC.
So, at the end of this day, I can safely say TLC is back in business over a short break and quiet week over Easter, and the warm glow that we are going to bed with tonight is not just from the sun’s rays but also the conversations from this morning’s cafe.