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Being a place to belong

9 April 2021

Being a place to belong

The impact of really seeing and hearing someone

Words Belinda Cassie

I walked into my local coffee shop this morning, the one I go to most days, and the barista turned and said, “Saw you coming!”, smiled and pointed at the coffee she was already making for me.

She’s amazing. I don’t know how many times I have watched her greet people by name as they walk in and already have their coffee order underway. I asked her today if she ever got confused. She said no, because until about 9.30am it’s all her ‘usual people’. She added that as long as no one moved where she set down each person’s coffee, she kept on top of it.

Then she said to me, “So you’ve been in the job for a month now.” A statement. Not a question. And to be honest, I was a bit confused and said that the 20th would technically be a month since I started. She replied that I’d started mid-week, so it must be four weeks already ... and she was right, of course. “See, you didn’t even know,” she added, “and no one got you a cake either did they? Rude!” And we laughed and I left.

But, as I sit here now, trying to write Sunday’s sermon and being distracted by every other little task – because procrastination is a definite thing – I am struck by how much of a gift she has. I think that, ultimately, most people just want to be seen and known – to have someone acknowledge the small milestones, celebrate the little wins with them and commiserate on the losses. Our barista is great at it. She makes people feel like they belong.

I remember when I was looking for a church back in 2011 and I walked in, more than a little heavy on the sceptical side I confess, to a Salvos church in Brisbane. A lady called Elaine met me in the foyer. She was warm and welcoming, introduced me to someone and found me people to sit with. The following week she again met me in the foyer and remembered everything we spoke about the previous week and asked relevant questions because of it. And that’s why I kept going back, initially. Elaine has that same gift that my barista does. She sees people, she hears them, and she makes them feel like they belong.

I wonder what our places and spaces would be like if we all gave that sort of welcome. Really seeing someone. Genuinely listening to them. Actively being the place they can belong.

Captain Belinda Cassie is a Salvation Army officer (pastor).


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