Saturday, January 19, 2013

Marquette U Starbucks at 7:30 a.m.

This will be a quick blog (or so I think as I prepare to write).

Several of us have gone to the Starbucks coffee shop on Marquette University’s campus. The shop is about three blocks from the Milwaukee Rescue Mission, so it is a pleasant walk in the early morning chill.

On each of the first three days of stay in Milwaukee (1/9; 1/10; 1/11), we visited Starbucks where it was pleasantly busy. I say pleasant, because while busy, it wasn’t inundated with patrons. The Marquette students were on break that first week, so it wasn’t so very busy.

On each of those first mornings, we encountered eight to ten men who were bundled in multiple layers of clothing seated in various chairs around the coffee shop. Some of them were in the leather-like chairs near the fireplace. Others were seated at tables scattered throughout the front and the back. They typically held a cup of coffee in their hands, a bag of belongs was perched near their chair, and some of them worked crossword puzzles. My impression that they were homeless men was confirmed when I recognized several of them from the Mission.

During our visits to Starbucks, many people patronized the shop. Some of them were dressed like the homeless men. Some of them were dressed in sweat pants and jackets, while others wore suits and carried briefcases. While there wasn't much interaction among the patrons, there seemed to be a general acceptance of all. At one point, I heard a barista address one of the homeless men as John and wish him a pleasant day.

Things changed on the 14th.

When I walked into the coffee shop at 6:45 a.m. that day, I noticed that the face of the shop had changed. I saw no men wearing multiple sweatshirts under a winter coat. I didn’t see any men working on cross word puzzles. I saw no one from the Mission. The homeless men disappeared.

What was different?

On Monday, the 14th, the students of Marquette University returned to school. That morning the Starbucks was inundated with students, faculty, and professionals scurrying to work. The leather chair in the corner was empty. Gone were the men who wore long, Army Surplus trench coats over sweatshirts.

What are the “rules” that caused this happen? What rules govern how an early morning coffee shop operates? Are the rules different for different people?

I find it fascinating that this transformation occurred with little or no communication (I didn’t see a notice in the window saying, “The Students are back. Homeless folks, you need to find another place to hang out until spring break.”).

What does this mean for Christian urban educators?

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