Day 7 ~ 177 Days of Unexpected Health Project

Caffeinated Clarity

Three easy words, one meaningful interpretation: coffee creates health. The obvious health tidbit: coffee is full of antioxidants, acting as a disease-fighting, health promoting substance (warning label: coffee’s health benefits are measured when consuming less than 4 cups per day…more than that actually raises health concerns). The unexpected health insight is that coffee also creates community, which creates and facilitates health. The beauty of this health insight is that even if you are not a java connoisseur (or even downright hate the stuff), you will still reap the benefits from coffee’s healthiness. The “nutrients” are actually in the address…coffee shops.

I fell in love with coffee shops in college, deeming myself a true “coffee rat” (I didn’t go to the gym enough to be classified as a “gym rat,” so there you go). I planted myself in the comfortable coffee shop seats for hours at a time, finishing homework, writing articles for the college newspaper, eating breakfast…yes, coffee shops seemed to be my second home. But why didn’t I just stay home, make my own coffee and do my homework? It definitely would have been cheaper. I know the answer. I wanted to thrive from the energy of others and coffee shops create that connection, bringing people from all walks of life into a cozy surrounding created around supplying warm (or cold) caffeinated concoctions. I find that coffee shops exude the same warmth as the beverages they serve.

There are a lot of lonely people in the world; people without families, without many friends, and without the financial resources to join an adventure group, a singles group, or any other paying organization that connects people to others. And sometimes, people who have families, friends, and finances still find themselves searching for connection. Voila, coffee shop culture begins. Although I poke fun at the fact that there are (literally!) five Starbucks within a one-mile radius, I find it interesting that ALL of these manage to stay in business. As banks, phone companies, and clothing stores are merging, and car companies are closing their doors, coffee concept stores like Starbucks are flourishing…or at least staying open. I wonder if others share in my use of coffee shops; to satisfy a coffee craving and to gratify a connection craving. I have had countless conversations while sitting at a local café. I have been challenged by strangers, inspired by those sitting on the couch across from me, and have—at times—caught up on my media gossip by a little innocent eaves dropping. In all of these instances, I was surrounded by people.

We are a species not meant to be alone; we were intended to share our lives, our experiences, and our memories with others. As I write this, I think about the movie, “Into the Wild,” a true story journey that movingly captures my written point on screen. At one scene, Alexander Supertramp (his “traveler” name) scribbles in his book, as he slowly and painfully faces his own fate, “Happiness only real when shared.” The brains behind Starbucks must have known this truth that Alex had to die—alone—to discover. Was the coffee culture envisioned to create the space for sharing happiness; for creating community? I’d like to think so. Because although the owners of Starbucks may be relishing in their own financial success, they have also succeeded at a feat they may not even know about; they have created health by turning street-front office space into grounds for gathering (couldn’t resist the coffee cliché). So the next time you are craving a coffee, try taking in more than the beverage…take in the community around you. There is strength in numbers. There is health in numbers as well. –Until tomorrow, Jaime

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