No one is an island

A personal reflection on my experience at Crete Cafes


This may date me a bit: “No man is an island, entire of itself, every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main.” This is the beginning of a poem from 1624. In it, the poet John Donne, appreciates how humans are all connected.

No, Donne and I did not graduate together but his poem was in my AP English course and I found it relevant after attending the Crete Community Cafe at the First Congregational UCC Church.

This was my first time attending the Crete Community Cafe, an outreach program of Crete Public Schools. The format of the cafe is designed to make everyone comfortable, build connections and leave filled with purpose. The cafes are held monthly and open to parents, school staff and community members to discuss common topics in a safe and welcoming environment to listen and learn from each other. The conversation is held between both English and Spanish speakers with the help of interpretation.

The basement of the UCC was full Feb. 15 with leaders working to bring in more chairs over and over. The topic of the cafe discussion was making an impact on your community.

To begin the meeting we were asked to turn to the person next to us and have brief introductions about who we are and what we do.

This is easy peasy when you speak the same language. But when you don’t, it can cause some initial apprehension.

I was seated next to a lovely woman I will call Mrs. J. who does not speak English aside from a few words here and there. And my Spanish is just as broken. Both of us could have decided right then and there not to interact with each other or wait our turn for interpretation, but we gave it a go. We learned about each other’s families. Mrs. J is married with eight children and only two are daughters. One of her sons is in Lincoln and the second oldest became a mechanic here in Crete. The rest of her children attend Crete Public Schools. We both have seven year olds. With her huge family she spends a lot of time cooking and the boys spend a lot of time eating. Mrs. J wants to learn English to improve herself and build a better community for her children.

Mrs. J’s purpose and my own are not all that different although our languages, ethnicity and family dynamics are. Within our brief, slow conversation for comprehension, I saw a woman that I would be blessed to know. It was easy to see in those few minutes that she would be a wonderful, dedicated friend.

The Crete Cafe challenged us to consider our impact on the community, and help participants to find meaning and purpose. For many people at the Cafe, their purpose was to learn English and be an example for their families.

For me, it is to learn Spanish and be an example of a community mindset for my own.

Hearing the stories of the participants I was inspired and realized how easy it is to take for granted how important our relationships with family, friends, people at work and in the community are. Loneliness is becoming more rampant even when there is not a language barrier. We seem to have everything right on our phones to keep us company. Somehow, despite all these advances in technology, or perhaps because of them, people can feel ever more isolated and alone.

If you also want to build community and foster social connections, join me at the next cafe meeting on March 14 at 6:30 p.m. at Crete Middle School. Bonus points if you bring someone who may need a friend.