This morning I got out of an airport taxi in Cambridge, MA, dropped my suitcases in my hotel room, and went out into bustling Harvard Square in search of a coffee shop. I was hungry and in desperate need of a post-flight caffeine jolt.
At a hopping shop I found a skim latte, and a slice of warm, sweet potato and mushroom quiche. The duo satisfied my stomach, and while I pushed the last few crumbs of buttery crust around my plate, I realized this coffee shop experience was feeding another sort of craving too.
I found myself relishing in the fact that I entered this new city and instantly find a place where I can get foamed milk poured over dark, hot espresso. Had I want a different sort of beverage, I could have looked up to the familiar menu board that hangs above those big, buzzing drink machines and found a list of alternative options that my pallet also recognizes. As I sit in this coffee shop, I am surrounded by people engaging in basically the same activities as the patrons in the shops I haunt in Seattle: they are reading the newspaper, gossiping with friends, or typing on a laptop like me. In this foreign city I realized I had been craving something familiar, a bit of home, and I found it in a coffee shop.
I have often heard people say that they love being Catholic because they can experience the familiar rhythms and beauty of the Eucharist wherever they go. No matter a given community’s characteristics—rich, poor, rural, urban—there are certain things one can expect to find in its liturgy. While I could fathom the benefits of the church’s universality in this way, it was never something very significant to me. Until right now, really. Until I realized how comforting a latte can be in foreign city.
Sometimes we need to sit among, and taste, and listen to something familiar. Something that tastes like home.
Jessica Coblentz is starting her first year as a grad student at Harvard Divinity School. She grew up in the highly-caffeinated city of Seattle, WA. Follow her writing on the Web at www.jessicacoblentz.com.