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Intention, Attention, Time, & Coffee

When I went to Italy a few years ago, I spent a bit of time observing the local morning coffee routine. Italians leaned on the cappuccino bar counter, lingering, chatting, slurping their espresso in two refined gulps…and then moving on. The entire transaction took no more than a minute or two. Yet connection was made and relationships and community built through brief yet purposeful conversation. Is intention more important than time? This is the question I’m sitting with at the moment.

The same thing always happens whenever I find myself in the car with some of my family after we’ve just hit up a coffee shop for our morning fix. Our to-go cups in hand or cup holders, we move on to what’s next in our day. Most likely before the car has parked at our next destination, my coffee cup is empty. As I go to dispose of the empty cup, the same statement always follows my steps to the garbage can: “You drink it so fast. Why don’t you enjoy your coffee and savor it?!”

Some of my family members can slowly, through microscopic sized sips, extend the life of their coffee for a full half, or even whole, day. And that just doesn’t work for me. Sitting in cool weather with the warmth of the cup seeping into my hands, my nose eagerly sucking in the smell and warmth of the steam, I want to wrap myself in the experience of that moment. I want to sip my coffee, just cool enough to not burn my tongue, in full sips that allow the flavors to flood my mouth. I enjoy every moment with my coffee. And then that moment is over with all the tragedy of the last drop of goodness and I sit, feeling warm and complete, rolling my tongue around my mouth to pick up the last remembrances of my morning coffee. I choose to engage with my coffee completely and at the height of its deliciousness rather than nurse it through its peak only to linger on the regret that my last experiences of it were cool and lipid. Maybe it’s not always about the length of time, to linger and enjoy. Perhaps there’s an attitude part involved. An intention. The intention to connect. Are time and true enjoyment and connection always mutually exclusive? Do you always need a significant length of time to really connect with someone? Or are intention and attention more important than length of time? Can you really quantify or qualify lingering and connection in terms of time? Last weekend I conducted a workshop for about eighty university students on empathy, listening, and connection and their role in human rights fieldwork in Thailand and beyond. If I could ask them now, I think the students would say that intention and attention are the keys to connection, and that true human connection is not dependent on long spans of time. And I’d agree with them. As the end of the year approaches and my busyness increases, I make sure to bring my intention and attention with me as I move through my day, knowing that real connection is waiting regardless of the finite nature of time. And you? Have you connected with someone today?

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