A few days after the recent fires erupted in Mendocino County, three of us who work for the Ukiah newspaper were decompressing in Black Oak Coffee when one of the owners walked up to our table.
“I just wanted to say ‘thank you’ for all that you guys are doing,” he said. “You probably aren’t getting a lot of sleep right now, so I appreciate all the information you are providing.”
That was cool.
|Photo by Chris Pugh - Ukiah Daily Journal|
But what was even cooler was how much space in the coffee shop had been devoted to making sure that anyone who needed help would know where to find it.
Outside, a sign invited evacuees to enjoy a free cup of coffee. Inside, much of the free counter and wall space was devoted to signs explaining where to find food, clothing, toiletries, a place to sleep and even a place for kids to play indoors.
For those without a way to access the internet, an iPad was set up on the counter for anyone to get the latest information on the fires, since at the time they were nowhere near under control.
All of these were small gestures to be sure, but I find the small, unobtrusive gestures – ones that don’t require you to ask for or even accept them – to be the most comforting. I know one of the first things I’d look for a day or two after being chased from my home would be a calm place where I could sit and drink some good coffee while everyone went about their normal lives.
Seeing people eating, gossiping about their day and yes, even buried in their phones, would be a much-needed reminder that the world was still spinning and eventually my life would return to normal as well.
But in the meantime, I’d know exactly where to get some shampoo and toothpaste, all without anyone knowing I had needed anything more than a cup of coffee.