The Heart of the Community

From the second the cow bell clanks against the door as I open it, I’m transported back in time. Everything about this place seems to invite me to relax, to stay a while, to get to know the people that are there.

I walk past two people playing pinball, laughing, really talking. The volume of the pinball machine is muffled, the bells and bumper sounds seem to add accompaniment to the cadence of easy conversation in this place.

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I’ve walked into the Kozy Cafe in Echo, Utah. A reader of my blog suggested I come here to meet great people with great stories. She suggested the manager and one of the waitresses. What I find is a place full of people who are there to connect, to catch up on the days news, and to laugh. There’s lots of laughter here, and lots of terrific people with great stories.

I walk past two old-timers drinking coffee, black. I catch bits of their conversation as they talk about the highway project just up the road, the health care plan, and people and things closer to home. They smile and look up. The waitress flirts with them and tops off their cups. One decides he “feels like pie”. I smile at the silly image that evokes in my mind.

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I sit down at the counter and and swinging doors to the kitchen open and out comes a woman clearly in her element. She introduces herself as Jody, and when I ask, I find that she’s the manager. But more than that–Jody is the heart of this place. She wants to know what she can get me. I ask her what is good. She doesn’t hesitate, the soup is awesome she tells me. She made it just this morning. She gets me a cup with a hot roll and a diet Coke and we start to talk.

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A few years ago Jody worked in a biker bar in Evanston, Wyoming. She loved it, but left it for a man she thought she loved more and moved to the Salt Lake Valley. Jody has an interesting past that makes it hard to get a job when you simply fill out an application and hope for the best. There’s just something about the word “felony” that makes it hard to get a call back for an interview. She’s been clean for over a decade, but the labels acquired in a moment of weakness and addiction still follow her.

It didn’t take long in Salt Lake until she was out of love, and out of money, with no place to really call home. Then she got a call from her former boss. He had found this old cafe and wanted to open it back up. He asked if she’d be willing to come run it for him. A month later she called Echo, Utah her home.

Our conversation is interrupted constantly by other people in the cafe. There’s a couple in the corner, and many of the customers have moved their plates to tables that surround them. I don’t know what they are talking about, but there’s lots of laughter. They call out to Jody to tease her, its clear to me they think the world of her. She teases back, the look on her face tells me she loves these people too–they are her family.

She tells me she’s here even when she’s not working. A wistful look crosses her face as she tells me “I love it here… I just love it here”. The pause after is filled with the sounds of a busy cafe and I realize I’m starting to love it here too.

The soup was excellent–but the conversation, getting to know Jody, was worth the trip. There are so many things to admire about what I found there–but there at the heart of it all stands Jody in her apron–ready to serve a dish of soup, laugh with her newfound friends, and make even a stranger like me feel right at a home.

My one regret? I wish I would have asked for piece of pie.

……………..digression……………….

I’m sad at how quickly our culture is moving away from personal interaction. From the metal boxes we isolate ourselves in to go to work, to the earbuds we put in while we are walking places, to the corporate efficiency of where we choose to eat. We have largely stopped talking to each other.

Even the interactions with my friends have been reduced to text on a screen instead of a phone call.

I ate in a “real” restaurant a couple nights after eating at the Kozy Cafe. We were shown to our seat by girl who only wanted to get us sat down so she could run back to her desk to help others, served by a man who had obviously been very well “trained” in EXACTLY what to say. Even when we had trouble with some of our food he was nothing more than a robot spewing the corporate line.

Interaction with anybody at a table next to us? Forget about it. I made a couple of comments to the people at the next table. It was clear they were NOT there to talk to the likes of me.

I hope you’re seeing through my blog that other people are very interesting. We are all on this rock together, and we assume that becasue we look alike that we are –

I think we’re alike in the sense we want to feel important, feel love, feel that we are needed in some sense by our fellow human beings.

But the path we take through this life is so varied and interesting. Try it. Open yourself up to be interested in another human being. Try doing it with no other intent than to listen and understand. It’s amazing.

And while I’m telling you what I think you should do here. Support the people like Jody who are still running businesses with heart. Do we really want to lose all the cafes and be stuck eating in “Olive Gardens” for the rest of our lives? Do we really want to make every interaction like the interaction we get from Walmart?

Just think about it. Do what your heart tells you is right.

………………..end of digression………………..

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One Response to The Heart of the Community

  1. Leslie Warner says:

    Excellent article, very descriptive, makes me want to visit Echo. Pity I’m half way round the world in Tasmania. Must have a look at your archives.

    Like

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