I grew up in a small town where everything was within walking distance and at a time when there were more people walking than driving. This was also a time when tea, not coffee, was the beverage of choice. I recall coming home from school on so many occasions to find a couple of visitors sitting around the kitchen table with my Mother. They were visiting and drinking tea, always tea. If you were coming from downtown, we lived on the other side of the bridge, on the last leg of the journey home. Weary from running errands, it seemed townsfolk only needed to cross the bridge to think of my Mom and the warmth of her hospitality, which included some good conversation and most likely something sweet to complement an excellent cup of tea. With the humility of a Mother, she attributed the visits to the convenience of our location, nothing more.
Years later, tea entered my life once again. This time, living in Japan, I found myself 'studying Tea', or more specifically, the Way of Tea in the Urasenke style. During my study, I learned about the value of celebrating everyday things, simply. Celebrating simply can best be considered the ultimate goal of the tea ceremony. As the host, you strive to ensure your guests experience a cup of tea, simply and meaningfully; unaware of the meticulous attention to detail that helped to create the atmosphere for the experience.
Since then I have remained convinced that there is nothing accidental about creating a meaningful experience. To be effective, you need a plan and it must be focussed. The object of your favour will know when it is otherwise.
While my Mother had no prior experience with the Japanese tea ceremony, I can't help but believe that the frequency of visitors had a lot to do with her ability to connect authentically, more than she cared to acknowledge. There is something to be said for celebrating the ordinary with a cup of tea.
I like to think that deep lasting connections begin with Tea. What do you do to create the right atmosphere to engage meaningfully with others?
Photo Credit: Okinawa Soba, 2007 via Flickr