catapult magazine

catapult magazine

Vol 4, Num 3 :: 2005.02.11 — 2005.02.24


The gift of Lisabet

Did he create it as a gift to us? No, chances are there were some nights he may have wished to have fewer teen-agers cluttering the sidewalk outside his front window. The coffeehouse across the street, after all, existed specifically to entertain the local youth. His was based on a classic European caf?, with its muted tones, sparkling wood floors and top-of-the-line Italian desserts. But Rob Brunetti graciously put up with us until we matured into friendship and the community that surrounded the Lisabet Caf? is one that changed my perspective on the world forever.

Rob has since sold the business and I?ve since moved to another state, but I think I?ll be making new discoveries about my time at Lisabet for the rest of my life. Classy and charming with a distinct Italian heritage, Rob knew how to do a job with excellence. The caf?, therefore, fulfilled the best definition of a coffeehouse, functioning as a necessary gathering place for people from a variety of backgrounds. In addition to our group from the local Christian high school, a typical summer evening would find bikers, homosexuals, artists and others, young and old, arriving on wheels and foot, enjoying conversation over specialty beverages and scones.

Ray Oldenburg in The Great Good Place

identifies the potential of a coffeehouse not only to draw a diverse clientele that crosses all kinds of identifying lines, but also to level those differences that would otherwise separate. This characteristic can be traced back to 17th century English coffeehouses where ?all were welcome and could sit down together?[where] there were no privileged seats and no requirement that anyone should give up his place to those ?Finer Persons? who might chance to enter.? Beyond casual encounters, the people who frequented these coffeehouses learned to care for one another and desire social change that would benefit their newfound friends. ?In the process of this unprecedented mingling,? Oldenburg writes, ?people became sensitive to one another?s situations and found common interests and sympathies.?

Over 300 years later, this quality of the coffeehouse remains and I?ve experienced it best at Lisabet. Unfortunately, as the clich? goes about those who have loved and lost, I now long for such a ?great good place? in my own community. For Lisabet was more than just a ?leveler?; it also served as a center for the arts and learning and a place people retreated to for healing engagement. I read countless books in the company of carefully hung art and listened to dozens of local musicians perform to eager crowds. I participated in discussions on everything from the latest film to the nature of repentance. Ultimately, I learned the world is bigger than I had previously dreamed and that the mysteries of God are a treasure worth seeking in unlikely places.

I know I probably romanticize the Lisabet Caf?, but I?m nostalgic for it just now as I dream about the possibilities for the small town we?ve claimed as home. In fact, a lot of people are dreaming up ideas for how to make our community better. As for claiming a coffeehouse that will affect others the way Lisabet did me, they say it?s better to have loved and lost than to never have loved at all, right? But I do have hope that I will love again.

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