We set off yesterday afternoon in search of a coffee shop in Duck, North Carolina. We couldn’t pass up the opportunity for a week on the beach when Beth’s friends asked her to come with them on family vacation and told her to bring a friend. (Who has two thumbs and is that friend? This chick.) But, both Beth and I have impending deadlines and an inability to not work at least a little bit, so we stole away with our laptops and books as the thunderstorms rolled in. And I feel like this may be what rainy vacation days were made for.
Finding a coffee shop in these Outer Banks beach towns isn’t hard, but finding one that will let you linger proved near impossible. It’s almost like these beach towns expect you to be on the beach or something.
And then we found The Treehouse. It’s tucked in the back corner of a shopping center, but nothing about this place reminds me of the sprawling suburban plazas back home. The center itself is planked and wooden, aged but not broken down, much like the people who run the boutiques and bookstores and galleries.
When we walked in, we were greeted by a thin guy with graying hair, almost bald but not quite. His face gave away his age, wrinkled and sun-worn, but he carried himself with joviality that told us he is not through enjoying his life.
“Welcome, ladies! How are we doing?”
“Wet,” Beth said, as we walked in from the rain. Our hair was dripping and we were soaked to the bone, my gray Toms squished with every step I took into the shop. They wouldn’t dry quickly, and I resigned myself to spending the rest of the night in wet shoes.
“Well, let me give you a towel to dry off with!” He handed it to me, the wettest of the bunch, and I tried to deny it, but he insisted. I ordered a latte, but all at once I was more grateful for his kindness than I was for his coffee.
He handed me my coffee and said, “Make yourself at home, okay?”
I’ve started making note of moments like this. I’m not sure if it says more about me or the world or just the way of things lately, but meanness seems far too prevalent and I lose faith in mankind if I don’t catalog the niceties every once in awhile.
I think maybe it started, this note taking, about the same time I started looking for grace moments, probably because in my mind the two can’t be separated. Nice can feel a lot like grace. And after the mess of leaving church and finding a new church and changing careers and deciding whether or not to move again – I’m still craving grace.
I’m craving connection to people who don’t care that I feel messy and complicated and confused, that can look past it or right into it and say, with words or not, “It’s alright. You’re gonna be okay. Here, have some coffee. You can talk if you want to.”
Maybe, if you’re as lucky as I am, you get it more on the regular. Maybe you come home to parents who are the kind of people who, even though you’re a grown-up, still call to see if you’re coming home for dinner, because if you are, they want to be sure there is something you like on the table. Maybe you share a bedroom wall with a brother who, when you have the flu, will run up the street to the grocery store just for Gatorade, the orange kind, because it’s your favorite when you’re sick. Maybe you go to Bible study with a group of women who really believe that you’re being a writer is not a crazy idea, and they offer their homes as “havens” and “writing spaces” to help you finish this crazy book you’re working on. Maybe you have parents of friends sending emails and inviting you for dinners and making space for you in their homes, just because you’re someone important to their kids. Maybe you have a niece and a nephew, of blood or of choice, who squeal and shriek and hug you around the knees every time you walk into a room. (I hope most especially you have the last one.)
Maybe for you finding nice isn’t all that difficult. But, maybe sometimes the world starts to feel a little off kilter with every news story about a missing plane or missing child. Or maybe your world is saturated with unkindness at work or school or home or church. Maybe you’re bullied. Maybe your kids are bullied. Maybe you’re just world-weary and tired, because life is just hard sometimes.
So maybe you need to be reminded that there are genuinely nice people out there, shining a little light in the darkness, going about their day as they run boutiques and bookstores and coffee shops. Because sometimes you get caught in the rain, and you need a place that feels even a little bit like home.
And if you find yourself in Duck, North Carolina then make sure you stop in at The Treehouse. If you come in from the rain, Larry will even give you a towel.