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Novice Naturalist

Calling Out for Coffee Shops

Crystal BaileyWhat is one place that all rural areas have in common? They all have a local coffee gathering spot. The specific locations of these can vary, it may be: the gas station, McDonald’s, the feed store, a café, or if really lucky, a coffee shop.

Wherever it is, every rural community has one. They are important places! The local coffee gathering places are filled with local community gossip, laughing, technical problem solving, bragging, and sharing of sorrow. But, more than anything, they are important places of personal connections and social gathering.

So many rural communities across the whole country are deteriorating: young people move away and don’t come back, the young people who stay fall into the substance abuse trap, the elderly move to nursing homes, and others are just so technology obsessed they forget to live the lives around them instead of the lives found on screens.

But, the coffee gathering place is different. It is an opportunity for the retired people to come together Monday through Friday and speak with others, to take away the feeling of isolation or loneliness. The world’s problems may be fixed over a cup of coffee, or at the very least, a solution to a problem on the farm or a difficult grandchild. It can be a place to discuss worries, celebrate exciting family news, and laugh at ridiculous jokes.

Photo by Crystal Krapfl.

Every rural town has a coffee gathering place, but maybe not a coffee shop. My mom and her friends, after working out together, go out for coffee every weekday. A few years ago, they had a coffee shop to go to — a place that had specialty coffee drinks and fresh homemade pastries. But, then it closed down. The bakery did, too. Now they have to go to a dingy café. The laughter, problem solving, and worries of life are still shared. But, the atmosphere is different; it’s not a coffee shop. A couple of months ago my friend was telling me a story about how some buyers of lumber from a different country were in my small hometown in Iowa to buy lumber from the town’s saw mill. They asked my friend where the coffee shop was. My friend told them there wasn’t a coffee shop in town, but the local gas station sold coffee. They asked again, finding it very hard to believe that the town didn’t have a coffee shop.

Every rural place should have a coffee shop. They are a place of gathering, a comfortable atmosphere for getting together with friends, a place where new ideas come to fruition. Every Monday through Friday there will be regulars that come in that bring stability to the business. But, a coffee shop provides more than that. It is a place that invites young people to stay for hours and talk, and it's a safe place for them to spend time. It is a place where entrepreneurs can conduct business and a nice place to meet customers. It is a meeting place for community leaders.

A coffee shop is a place to drink coffee and so much more. Many businesses have opened and closed in rural places. But, a coffee shop is the most missed one for me. If your small town has a coffee shop, consider yourself lucky. If your town doesn’t have one, and you are looking into starting a business, consider a coffee shop. They can help bring life and vigor to a small town.

Get to Know Grandma

Crystal BaileyHer favorite singer is Frank Sinatra. She was born in 1928 and grew up in a traditional limestone rock farmhouse near Garnavillo, Iowa. The house my grandma grew up in did not have electricity until she was well into her teen years.

My Grandma and I have virtually nothing in common. She was a homemaker her whole life; I work in a man’s world as a professional forester. My grandma had four children by 25. I’m currently 25 and am newly married and childless. She does not miss Sunday church for any reason. I go when it’s convenient. I could go on and on.

While we grew up in homes only 20 miles from each other, there was 70 years in between our formative years. When you look at these differences, it’s easy to understand why it would be hard to converse with each other, yet alone have a deep, meaningful relationship with each other. These are the barriers that often keep those from my grandma’s generation from having a relationship from those of my generation. I see it with my grandma and some of my other twenty-two cousins.

But, she remembers the Great Depression, not from a textbook but from the time she lived through it. She remembers how absolutely everything on their farm was used and reused. Which explains why she still washes out Ziploc bags and reuses them! She remembers how she got the privilege to graduate high school while many other children had to quit school to work or help at their home.

Not to mention, she has a wealth of practical knowledge. When I wanted to learn how to make homemade mashed potatoes, how to make jam from fresh raspberries, or how a quilt is put together, I went to my grandma. At the ripe age of 90 years old she still does all of her own cooking, cleaning, and gardening. She creates multiple quilts a year and takes care of all her own bills. She is a role model, a person to strive to be.

I’ve learned to look past our differences and know when it’s time to listen, and time to keep my opinions to myself.  My grandma has learned to do the same, and I’ve actually been able to teach my grandma a thing or two! Those in my grandma’s generation live in a foreign world where it is possible to look up any fact or statistic on a device that is 3 inches by 5 inches, that is always an arm’s reach away. I’ve taught her how you look up facts on Google. I have shown her how to use a DVD player.

It is easy for my grandma’s generation to look at our generation with scorn, and go no further than lecturing in trying to create a relationship. But, it goes both ways. Although, it’s sometimes hard for her, my grandma has learned to do the same. This year, I got married in a non-denominational church, and my devoutly Catholic grandma didn’t say a word about it. Now that’s understanding!

different generations

Whether, you are closer to 1928 or 1993 on the birth spectrum, understand that these multi-generational relationships are worth nurturing. They will help you learn, and to appreciate differences in others. You will learn about history in a way that no podcast or internet article can. You will hear about your ancestors and understand where you came from. You will be reminded of what values in life can create true happiness. If you take the time to listen, to learn, to really speak with those older than you, you will thank yourself later. Then, when your grandparent or great aunt or uncle passes away, you’ll have more memories and experiences to share than: their hair was gray and they had false teeth.

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