Two Cups of Coffee

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To listen to today’s reflection as a podcast, click here
“An eye for and eye, and a tooth for a tooth.”
Gandhi famously said that if we take that Old Testament dictum to its logical conclusion, the whole world will end up blind and toothless.
The only hope for healing in our broken world is if two wounded parties decide not to hate each other.
Yugoslavia dissolved in the wake of the Soviet Union’s demise in the early 1990s.  The “country” itself was less than 75 years old.  From the start, it had been an artificial conglomeration of various ethnic entities – groups that cherished ancient hatreds.  The victors of World War I had drawn lines on a map that brought them all together.  Perhaps proximity would help foster trust.  It didn’t. 
The beautiful city of Sarajevo, once a thriving blend of faiths and ethnicities, became a nightmarish killing zone.
Bosnian Muslims, retaliating for the massacres of their families, murdered the loved ones of their Catholic and Orthodox neighbors.  
That included nine members of the family of a gentle Franciscan monk named Ivo Markovic.  All were senior citizens.  Markovic’s 71-year-old father was the youngest of the group.  In his book Free of Charge, Miroslav Volf describes what happened when Father Markovic returned to his home village.
The house in which his brother used to live was now occupied by a fierce Muslim woman. 
Markovic was warned that he ought to keep his distance.  The woman owned a rifle and she was more than willing to use it.
Volf writes, He went anyway.  As he approached the house, she was waiting for him, a cigarette in her mouth and her rifle cocked.  She barked: ‘Go away or I’ll shoot you.’
“’No, you won’t shoot me,’ said Father Markovic in a gentle but firm voice, ‘you’ll make a cup of coffee for me.’”
For a few moments, she just stared at him.  Then she slowly lowered her rifle and padded into the kitchen.  She took the last bit of coffee she had, mixed in some already used grounds, and made enough coffee to fill two cups.
“And they, deadly enemies, began to talk as they partook in the ancient ritual of hospitality: drinking coffee together.”
During the conversation that followed, she spoke to him of her loneliness.  She talked about the house she had lost.  She mourned for her son who had never returned from the battlefield.
Father Markovic returned a month later.  This time her greeting was different: “I rejoice at seeing you as much as if my son had returned home.”
Volf continues, “Did they talk about forgiveness?  I don’t know.  And in a sense, it doesn’t matter.
“He, the victim, came to her asking for hospitality in his brother’s home, which she unrightfully possessed.  And she responded.  Though she greeted him with a rifle, she gave him a gift and came to rejoice at his presence.  The humble, tenuous beginnings of a journey toward embrace were enacted through a ritual of coffee drinking.”
He concludes, “If the journey continues, it will lead through the difficult terrain of forgiveness.”
It’s so easy to choose to hate. 
After all, they deserve whatever pain comes to them – whoever “they” happens to be for you. 
Likewise, it’s so hard to choose to heal. 
Perhaps you can hardly imagine offering the gift of hospitality if “they” somehow cross your path or wind up at your front door. 
But against all odds, choosing the path of healing really does help heal the one who is courageous enough to offer it, as well as the one who is courageous enough to receive it.
It might even begin with two cups of coffee.