In the Dominican Republic, in slums pressed between vacation resorts, there is a café without tables, without chairs. You’ll never find it on Yelp.
This café has a welcoming heart, even warmer than the Caribbean sun. This café is a woman. I will never forget the day we met, when she taught me about generosity.
Café earned her nickname, and her reputation for making the best cup of coffee in her community. She brewed the coffee in her home, with a French press on a gas burner. She bought the water that was safe for drinking from a truck that drives through her neighborhood every day. The coffee was Dominican, from the neighborhood store. She sweetened it with sugar cane sold by children in the streets.
I met Café not over a table, but on a worksite. I was part of a team of Canadian students, working with youth from a local Dominican community where World Vision youth volunteers and I were visiting. We were helping to rebuild the home of Cafe’s neighbor, which was damaged after years of flooding.
The day I met Café was very hot. I was covered in sweat and dust when she appeared on the jobsite. In her hands, she carried her daily gift for the workers.
This house-build was a community affair, everyone had a role, and Café treated the team to a coffee break. She singled me out as the first to taste the coffee and handed me the pot, insisting I drink from it directly.
I stood in the center of the jobsite, holding the piping hot glass pot with my work gloves. I slowly tipped the sweet, caffeinated liquid into my mouth while considering how I was breaking all the rules of traditional tea time with my family back in Canada.
It was delicious! Like the best combination of coffee and caramel. As I tasted the first sip, Café handed out all the cups she owned to the other workers, took back the pot and filled their cups. When she returned the pot to me with all the remaining coffee, I felt honoured and humbled all at once.
Café gave to me in the most beautiful way. She didn’t have the physical strength to help with the build, but she gave her strength — her coffee. She didn’t give because she had extra clean water, coffee, gas and cups. She gave out of what she had. Café didn’t keep the lion’s share of the coffee for herself because she deserved it. Instead, she gave the first and last sips to me.
Her generosity made an impact on me. It was the kind of generosity that changes both the giver and the receiver.
Often we look for ways to give that will impact us the least. We give away our extras, but that is short-sighted. Generosity can lift others up and bring people together. And giving from what we have can do wonders for ourselves.
It will change all of us, if we let it.
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