By Ray Castle
Helping to run a café is a lot of fun: the chat, the friendship, and meeting customers, who are (mostly) lovely people. But, reflecting later, it’s sometimes not clear (at least not always to me) what we’ve achieved that day.
We’ve served coffee and tea, of course, and shifted plenty of food, too. But then every café does that. Do we, as we hope, add more, as our self-chosen title ‘community café’ suggests?
An answer came during today’s café session.
I don’t routinely visit ToastLoveCoffee on Wednesdays. But I popped in to complete some DIY: repair a table, cure a leaking tap, and straighten a wonky cake stand. As I sat in a corner mending, another customer looked over.
She’s someone who volunteers with us regularly. Lately her life has been rocky. She’s left an unhappy marriage, been homeless for a spell but now has a place of her own and is making a new life.
This young woman is someone who can look sulky in repose. But as she caught my eye and we exchanged a few words and smiles, her face lit up. She is now happy. She was sitting, eating lunch with friends. She’d been to college that morning and planned some shopping for the afternoon.
During her toughest times we helped a little, giving her a plate, some mugs and cutlery from the café’s cupboard. We also found her a few bits of furniture. More than that we’d given her somewhere safe to come and somewhere to belong – she’d told us as much.
Seeing the change in her today was wonderful.