catapult magazine

catapult magazine

Vol 4, Num 16 :: 2005.09.09 — 2005.09.22


Naming the space

You pass through places and places they pass through you,
But you carry ?em with you on the soles of your travelin? shoes.

-?The Littlest Birds? by The Be Good Tanyas

Let me tell you about the table.

The table is about eight feet long with both leaves in and about three feet wide. Eight people fit around the table very comfortably, but it has served as a potluck lunch surface to at least twelve people at once. The finish is worn and it sags a little in the middle and there are marker splotches here and there.

We inherited the table from our dear friends and mentors, at whose home we worked through many of life?s biggest questions during high school and college and beyond?still. With them, we enjoyed countless cups of coffee, delicious family meals and passionate, light-speed conversations?all around this very table. Around the time my husband and I were starting a fair trade store in Three Rivers, Michigan, our friends were shopping for a new table around which to gather. Would we like the old one? Yes, we definitely would.

Part of our goal in establishing a fair trade store was to create a community gathering place for people of various backgrounds who shared a common commitment to social justice. Fair trade is, after all, about honoring the relationship between the consumer and the producer, so why shouldn?t our store incorporate a gathering space where relationships could be cultivated to produce good fruit for the local and global community? Justice is right relationship in many forms.

Fortunately, the seed of an idea that was present in the beginning has sprouted and grown into more. We began with weekly Friday afternoon potlucks and we?ve grown into a donation-based coffee and gathering area called the Travelin? Shoes Caf?.

The naming process is always a long one for us because we want to discover the name that encompasses our purpose in a creative way, but also leaves room for the unexpected. We want to find the name that sings. ?Travelin? Shoes Caf?? came about first because of the song lyric quoted above. This gathering space should change people. But then we grew to like the tie-in with the global aspects of our store, as well as the idea that we are all on unique journeys with thousands of stories that, in the right place and right company, are ripe for the telling. The idea that we are still travelin? also implies that those who find respite here have not yet arrived and the place is friendly toward big questions.

The original table has now been joined by other tables?an elaborate antique my mom rescued from the curb; the amoebic mosaic coffee table from a thrift store; a borrowed 1950s metal winged table on loan from friends; an art desk liberated from storage at our high school; a pedestal salvaged from some friends? nearby dusty Michigan basement and transported down Main Street on a little cart stacked with furniture. By definition, they all have at least one leg and a flat surface; outside of the basics they are as different as they can be. Around these tables, we gather for work, for coffee, for conversation and sometimes just for the silent joy of being in the company of others.

Having claimed a story of faith as a follower of Christ, I carry with me on my soles evidence of places I?ve never been, of the place Hagar cried out for mercy, of the place Jacob wrestled with God. We hold in common an inclination to name. May the Spirit see fit to convene people in this place who are on a journey toward the Unnamable God.

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