Illustration by Jose Santana Firpo

Long Story Short: True Aroma

It’s the dailies that do us in. After a month of head-pounding dailies where conflicts arose from situations with simple solutions and temperaments were tested, I awoke one morning to this thought: This situation is reparable. Absolutely rectifiable. Fixable, manageable, doable, forgivable. In the great, grand picture of life, the everyday conflicts will be long forgotten when the story is told. But in the moment, they seem insurmountable. 

But just ask anyone who has overcome a life-threatening disease or walked through a season of real conflict and loss, and they will tell you. Stop sweating the small stuff. Be thankful you have dailies at all.

And it often takes a jolt to wake us up.

My recent jolt didn’t come in the form of great loss or life change, but it came in the form of a jolt of caffeine in a java house and café in the middle of a small town.

On a recent work trip, my colleague and I stopped into The Broken Bean, a former cottage transformed into a coffee and tea shop in Minden right next to the hospital and church. One step through the threshold, and the transformation was palpable. Light poured through old windows. Colorful walls painted in bright hues showcased inspirational sayings and Scriptures. Small tables scattered throughout the home’s rooms offered ample room for private conversations. And the overall feeling of the space was simple joy.

“Would you like to be the first person to sign our Thankfulness Pumpkin?” a woman asked after our drinks arrived from behind the counter. As my friend began writing on the large pumpkin in the former living room, the woman took photos to post on social media while calling other ladies in with the exaltation, “She’s signing our pumpkin!” A few women trickled in to watch the signing.

“My heart is full,” said another woman, who turned out to be the manager. “Thank you so much for coming in and blessing us this day.” She gave me a hug.

My first thought as I looked around at the smiling ladies, English breakfast tea in hand, was “What in the world is this place?” They all seemed so genuinely happy.

They were delighted to tell their story.

The Broken Bean is a shop where women going through the Minden Teen Challenge program can work, learn vital skills, and earn an income to support themselves and their children. It’s a free, faith-based, 18-month program for pregnant women and women with children who are overcoming addictions. Some of the ladies present had graduated from the program and were mentoring younger ones while on the job. They walked us to the “Miracle Room” to show us photos of them with their children, framed on the walls. There were also before-and-after pictures with a short synopsis of transformation stories. More than one of the ladies told us that they had received a second chance at life.

The jolt turned out to be more than the caffeine.

Our hearts, like theirs, became full. We took photos of them as well and promised to tag them in anything we posted. As we walked out of this inspirational coffee house, all the stresses and situations of our daily life seemed to pale in comparison to the scene we had just experienced. And for the first time, we really looked at the large sign outside:

“The Broken Bean: Only when something is broken does it reveal its true aroma.”

A second chance at life. A reparable conflict or relationship. A good, strong cup of coffee and a smile.

I think that is a jolt worth being thankful for.