The Community of Pumpkin Spice Lattes

I don't frequent Starbucks.

I'd much rather be in a quaint, local coffee shop than your run of the mill, cookie cutter, box store coffee shop.

Starbucks is for the masses, and I flatter myself that I am not a for-the-masses coffee drinker.

However, there is one time of year when Starbucks and I get a little bit friendlier - pumpkin spice latte season.

To me, a soy pumpkin spice latte, no whip, is heaven in a cup.

I love pumpkin.

Pumpkin bread, pumpkin pie, pumpkin roll, pumpkin cheesecake, pumpkin pancakes, pumpkin everything, and most definitely pumpkin lattes.

Pumpkin is what makes fall, fall.

Without pumpkin flavored foods, we would all be at a complete loss as to what fall tastes like.

Fall tastes like pumpkin.

And it's wonderful.

From the time Starbucks puts pumpkin spice latte on the menu the first week of September until they run out of the deliciousness sometime in January, I will be in Starbucks at least every other week and would patronize my local store more often if I could afford it.

It's the one time a year I actually get to know a few of the local baristas.

It's the one time a year I actually get in and among the Starbucks crowd and mingle with the common coffee-loving masses.

It's the one time a year I begin to find a little community among them and find myself a part of their rituals and life.

It's the one time a year I become part of the Starbucks community.

***

Community is a major buzz word in church circles these days.

A major buzz word because I think we're all at a little bit of a loss as to how to find community and create community and strengthen community, especially in the move-from-one-thing-to-the-next, impersonal-social-media, in-and-out kind of world we live in.

Community has to be intentional. It has to be personal. It has to be me and you taking the time to get to know our neighbors at home, our neighbors in the pew, our neighbors in our cubicles and our neighbors in every facet of life.

It takes us choosing to be in community.

However, community building and being in community does not come naturally to me.

I am very comfortable being by myself. I am very comfortable with evening after evening of good books and a cuppa tea and a room full of quiet. I am very comfortable with starting and ending a movie marathon on my own. I am very comfortable sitting in the stillness, sitting in the quiet of my own presence.

I would make a wonderful hermit.

But hermits, unfortunately, are terrible community builders.

Being intentional about building and being in community is difficult for me, and community building has to be intentional.

I'd much rather sit around and wait for community to come to me instead of starting a conversation, engaging in an activity or putting out an invitation.

This method has worked, I believe, a total of once.

Unfortunately, community without effort is a rare phenomenon.

And since rare phenomenons are, well, rare - community takes us, stepping outside of ourselves and what makes us feel cozy comfortable. It takes us saying hello to the stranger, and when we're the stranger, saying hello to someone - anyone - in the room.

The truth is pumpkin spice lattes are, for me, the most heaven-licious drink in the world, but I need Starbucks in order to enjoy the heavenly-liciousness of it.

I need Starbucks, its baristas, its stores and its regular customers who keep them afloat the rest of the year to be able to indulge in the goodness that is a pumpkin spice latte.

Not only do I need them, I have to engage them. I have to interact with them. I have to wave off my regular coffee shops to patronize theirs. I have to do in order to gain.

And perhaps a little bit more doing, results in meaningful, intentional, supportive community.