Free Coffee

I do volunteer work for InterVarsity, a campus Christian ministry organisation that works mainly in the US but also has international branches in various other countries. And today we had something very special for the students of the School of the Art Institute of Chicago – free coffee!! And tea/hot water, for those non-coffee drinkers like me. The perfect remedy for a cold, wet day.

It was actually quite a fascinating event, not because there was free coffee, but to watch people’s reaction when they saw the coffee cart and the big sign that said “Free Coffee”. I observed that many people proceeded in this manner:

  1. Eyes light up at seeing the “Free Coffee” sign.
  2. Approach the cart slowly, in a meandering fashion.
  3. Eyes flicker to the coffee pot, then to the stack of cups, and then back to the pot.
  4. Wary glances to the volunteers/staff worker.
  5. Tentative “What is this?” or “Is this really free?”
  6. Eagerness at being handed a cup.
  7. Sheer joy from pumping brown liquid out of a huge pot.

It reminded me of how stray animals behave at the sight of food being offered to them. It was absolutely adorable, in a strange, artsy way. And heart-warming, too. Some people ran away the moment they got their free coffee (and the “grace is free, too!” sentence), while others stayed to chat, and even more people hung around and smoked. But it was a fun, good time to get to know other students, and you could see how many people genuinely needed a break, not just from life, but from the oppressive isolation and loneliness of a college of art.

I wish we had a bottomless supply of coffee to give out. We’d be out there all day, and the next day, and the day after that. But we quickly ran out after 30 minutes, which was kind of pathetic yet awesome at the same time. Hopefully, the next time we do this, we’d be able to last at least as long as lunch break, which is an hour long. But I’m glad we got to  do this and share our beliefs and beverages! *Note to self: Artists prefer taking their coffee black.


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