By Donna Salvati
On any given morning at Bagels & Beans, a neighborhood café located at Five Points in Union, gathers a small group of friends. The group is mostly comprised of men between the ages of 50 and 90 sipping coffee, enjoying a breakfast sandwich, engaging in conversation about current events, cars, the “good old days” or whatever happens to come up.
I am a bit younger than this crowd, happen to be female and have many more years of full-time work ahead of me. I live down the road and stop in almost daily for my caffeine fix before hitting the GSP. I noticed several of the same fellows on a daily basis and they seemed congenial enough to say a hello on my way out. The “hello” turned into asking one of the guys jokingly if he lived there since I saw him often and we started a casual conversation.
Soon after, a few of them encouraged me to sit a moment and join them. I am in sales and am used to conversations with strangers (and rejection) on a daily basis and found this invitation to be a refreshing change in a world of no eye contact and diminishing manners.
I came to find these men, most who live locally, have diverse backgrounds. Some are retired, some still working. A few are living alone and others are married for many years with kids and grandkids. The common thread they share is taking a moment out of their day to have a cup of coffee, some conversation and the desire to make a new friend.
Most of these men were strangers before they met at Bagels and Beans. They jokingly refer to themselves as “The Galloping Hill Geezers” since many of their “members” are seniors. Although the group is mostly male, a female perspective is welcome. I have seen the group grow larger over the months and many of the guys get together to play cards go to dinner or take a short road trip.
I viewed these guys as a friendly group of casual friends and realized recently that this was something deeper. One of the guys recently experienced a sudden death of a close family member. I had gotten to know this person over many cups of coffee as a caring family man and knew how profound his loss was. I went to pay my respects at the wake and found that the entire group had turned out! I realized that this was just not friendship but “community” in its truest form….offering support in solidarity. I knew then I was amongst true gentlemen.
The purpose of writing this is not for everyone to rush out to Five Points to crash the morning gathering (even if B & B makes a fine cup of coffee) but rather to encourage people to let down their defenses once and awhile and say “hello” to that person you see almost every day at the same café whether they are rushing off somewhere or sitting at their usual table. They may have something interesting to say, they may live a block away from you, perhaps know someone you grew up with or share a common interest.
I have learned a lot from these guys….there are years of life experience and knowledge at that table every morning. I have heard a lot of great stories and hope to hear many more. Hopefully I have given them a good story here and there as well. I smile as I head off to work with my coffee-to-go and hear “have a good day, kid, see you tomorrow.”
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