I met Keith at the community dinner three years ago. He is a self-described party animal. “When I go to karaoke and have a few drinks, look out. Everyone calls me a dance machine!” Keith lived with his mom before she required twenty-four-hour nursing care. She lives in the hospital now, and Keith lives alone. Now that she is hospitalized, he is drinking less. “It was not good. She would be throwing wine bottles into the parking lot.” He seems relieved not to be his moms drinking buddy anymore. He has a guardian from the state that manages his money and a case worker that checks up on him. While it’s frustrating for him that he needs help, he seems to be at peace with the reality that he can’t take care of himself.

Keith began texting me in the middle of the pandemic. He likes to ask me questions about sports and the news. “Go Seahawks! Isn’t the election crazy?” He has lived in the same apartment for twenty years and worked the same part time job with the city for twenty-five. “I could retire, but health insurance is so expensive.” I visit him with coffee and absorb his anxiety about the news, his case worker, and whether or not he should complain about his talkative neighbor. “She really is a problem. So nosey, and intrusive.”

Keith has purchased a coffee maker and has some questions. He is not sure what kind of coffee to use or how much water he needs. “How do you do it?” We exchange texts about the brand, I suggest pods or a number one paper filter. We decide it would be great if I could come over and help. I am amazed that he is unable to make coffee. I discuss his lack of self-sufficiency with my co-workers, lamenting all the people we know that can’t take care of themselves. I am friends with a sixty-year-old, formerly homeless man, who is in his very first apartment. He has no idea how to pay his electric bill or adjust his thermostat. Another formerly homeless friend, spends his monthly Social Security check, taking his friends from the street out to breakfast at IHOP.

I arrive at Keith’s apartment and we get to work on the coffee. He is concerned that it will be a problem and feels like he has asking a lot of me. I assure him that its no problem and begin the FlexBrew lesson plan. My first attempt results in water and coffee grounds overflowing on the counter. This really raises the stress level for my student. I read the directions and began to feel the comedy of humility. I begin to doubt my own ability to read directions and make coffee. My second and third attempt produce hot water but no coffee. Keith begins to repeat, “this is a problem” like an ancient medieval chant. I decide that we should go the store and get some pods. Keith is convinced that pods will not work. I finally realize that the filter opens, and the beans go inside. Kevin and I laugh for a half hour on his patio, sharing in our unique brew. He lets me know that his cup is full of coffee grounds. My cup is so strong I began to fear for my life. On my way home I lament at how none of us can take care of ourselves. I think I need Keith’s help more than he needs mine! “Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ (Galatians 6:3).”

Michael Cox

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