The Third Place

Photo Credit: me Bridgeport Coffee Chicago IL

Photo Credit: me
Bridgeport Coffee Chicago IL

You know this scene. The scream of espresso machines. Indie rock music plucking away in the background. Flowers displayed in empty coke bottles decorating an array of colorfully mismatched tables. The aroma of freshly brewed fair trade coffee drifting through the room filled with artfully disheveled-looking twenty-somethings and the occasional middle-aged man with a very impressive beard.  

Yes. You are in a hipster coffee shop. 

Now please don’t think that I mean to offend. I am a self-proclaimed Coffee-Shop-Connoisseur, and my favorites are always the hipster ones. There is something to me that is really attractive about a small business that does what Dunkin’ Donuts or Starbucks does, but with more flavor and personality than any chain restaurant could ever pull off. Plus, I dig the music.

 There is something that screams “community!” at me whenever I enter into one of these beautifully artistic coffee shops. But it’s not that I feel particularly connected to the baristas, or that the shop is within transit distance of my house. No, I think it has more to do with what Ray Oldenburg discussed in his book The Great Good Placewhen he called places like these hipster coffee shops that I just can’t get enough of the “Third Place”.

The “Third Place” is the place you go to that’s not home (the “First Place”) or the workplace (the “Second Place”). Third Places are the “anchors”, if you will, of community life because they foster broader and more unique interaction where people can have informal meetings which they intentionally seek out. 

Oldenburg outlines six guidelines that usually make for an ideal Third Place. They are as follows:

  1. Free or inexpensive
  2. Food and drink, while not essential, are important
  3. Highly accessible: proximate for many (walking distance)
  4. Involve regulars – those who habitually congregate there
  5. Welcoming and comfortable
  6. Both new friends and old should be found there.

Upon reading these guidelines, I was forced to reflect upon the different season of my coffee-shop-connoisseur lifestyle, and I realized that I have had a different Third Place for each season. They are as follows:

  1. Caribou Coffee– During High School, there was a severe lack of hipster places, mostly because I lived in the suburbs, and I don’t think “hipster” was a thing during that time. Nevertheless, I remember countless nights my best friend Cassidy and I would camp out at Caribou, each guzzling Depth Charge and loving the joys that a caffeine rush can have on a teenager.
  2. Fusion Brew– In college, my dorm-mate and I discovered this little hide-away, and while I’m not sure you would call it “hipster”, they had the best Taro Milk Tea I’ve ever had. Actually, they had the only Taro Milk Tea I’ve ever had, but still. Liz and I would order tea or a hummus plate and talk about boys and problems, and oftentimes the boys were the problems, so there was no distinction. I remember that this place was also a mecca for Christians. Not sure why, as I was a non-Christian when I started to go there. 
  3. The Coffee Hound– This was my real Third Place. I say that because it’s the first place I actually sought out to go by myself. Before, I was simply meeting people. The Coffee Hound was 100% hipster, and the coffee was expensive and good. Burlap sacks and local art hung on the walls, and yes, indie music was always playing. I remember being the last person in the shop during finals week… the barista gave me a free card punch for being dedicated.
  4. Starbucks– When I started my first big-girl job as a teacher, I was staying super late at work, which sucked because then I felt like I was always there. But I also hated bringing papers to grade home with me because then I felt like I was working at work, and at home (every teacher I know has this problem). One of my teacher mentors at my school suggested I find a place to work on papers that wasn’t home and wasn’t school (a Third Place!), and she handed me a Starbucks gift card as if to give me a hint. Although not very hipster, I do actually know the baristas and the regular costumers that go to this particular Starbucks, which makes it pretty hip if you ask me.
  5. Bridgeport Coffee– This little hipster joint is pictured above, and it’s probably even more hipster than the Hound. I love it there because it’s unique, quaint, cheap, and has great music, but dislike it in the summer because it doesn’t have air conditioning. But neither does my house, so I guess I should be used to it by now. Still, I have camped out at this place many summer mornings to have my quiet time away from Dennis’s rehearsals at home. 

Okay, and so after thinking about these places, I couldn’t also help but remember where God has met me in each of these season. I won’t go into details with each season, but I will tell you that God has met me in that Third Place each time, and it’s been quite extraordinary. Because the truth is, none of our first, second, or even third places stay the same. Home is always changing, especially when you’re younger, but even when you’re not. Work is always changing, especially with this economy. And because these things change, so does your Third Place. 

Before I met Jesus, I was a Consistency-Connoisseur. I was always searching for something that would last and never change on me, and I looked for it in more than a few different Third Places as well as in many other places and in many other people. 

In all my searching, the one and only constant thing I have found to be never-failing is God’s Word. In the paraphrased words of our dear friend Ray Oldenburg:

  1. His Word is free when it comes by the Spirit, and inexpensive when it’s read in the Bible.
  2. His Word provides more sustenance than any physical food or drink can.
  3. His word is Highly accessible to all– The Bible is still the world’s best seller.
  4. His Word is consistent– it involves regulars who visit it daily.
  5. His Word is welcoming and comfortable, that’s why they call it “Good News”.
  6. His Word can bring you new relationships and teach you about past ones as well.

So, at the risk of sounding very corny, and not hip at all, I declare that my constant Third Place will always be the Word Of God. Guys, I can’t even tell you how relieved I am that I don’t have to be a Consistency-Connoisseur anymore; I have found my consistency in Christ. Besides, being a Hipster-Coffee-Shop-Connoisseur is way fun. 

I hope you can find a Third Place in God’s Word as well, and I hope that you can also find a totally hip physical Third Place too, because that’s important as well.

In the meantime, check out how much Hipsters Love Coffee!

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