CHRIST IN WINTER: Reflections on Faith and Life for the Years of Winter…
Place names usually tell us quite a bit about the geography of an area. A low-lying city like Cleveland, down by the lake, is surrounded by a whole ring of suburbs that have “Heights” in their name, because they are higher than the main city. On a flat prairie or plain, a place is often named for an unusual feature—Lone Tree, or Funk’s Grove. Sub-divisions or shopping complexes are named for what the developers destroyed by building it—the Riverview is now obscured by all the mcmansions, or all the Tall Oaks were chopped down to make room for the mall.
When I was new in the ministry, on a map of TN I came across a cluster of towns with names like Despair, Destruction, and Defeat. [Yes, I could look at the map to be sure I got the names accurate, but the atlas is in the car, and I’m not.] Those names indicate the original residents didn’t have much hope. In those days young pastors were often appointed to a circuit of three churches. I wondered how one would be able to preach if appointed to the Despair, Destruction, & Defeat Circuit.
Or Needmore. Now there is a place that tells you a lot about how the first settlers felt about it. Or maybe not. I go to the Needmore Coffee House. There one day I wrote this poem:
Today I remembered
my pad and my pen, but I forgot
to bring an idea, an image, a hope
So I sit here bereft
a poet in a coffee house
with coffee but no poem
It seems quite fitting
that the name of this place
where I sit on a blue sofa
is Needmore Coffee
but it might as well be
Yes, Needmore Coffee is not named that because of the absence of coffee or the addiction to it of denizens like myself. It is named for the hamlet outside of town where the owner lives, the owner who actually goes to Central America to buy direct from farmers so that she’ll know they are getting a fair deal. The village was named for folks who felt they didn’t have enough, but now there is at least one resident who works to be sure that those in need get enough. Except for poems.
“All we ask [in old age] is to be allowed to remain the authors of our own story.” Atul Gawande, Being Mortal, p. 140.