As you can imagine, coffee is part of the glue that brings people together. Our clinic’s industrial strength coffee maker was famous for bringing clients in for group and med checks when they might otherwise skip it altogether.
So when something or another broke, my group members came up with their own solution: they marched across the street to the local bodega as they waited for group to get started.
Now, for some of you a bodega is as familiar as any store in the urban landscape of New York. For those who are not, think of a makolet but with a hispanic, Catholic orientation. You’ll find votive candles next to plantains (a kind of banana) across the aisle from things that you’d never find in a makolet in Israel (for Kosher reasons). What made this bodega a bit different however was that it was owned and operated by a Pakistani family.
Of course the coffee maker broke for all of us. And social workers also need a steady infusion of coffee to keep us going. Taking a page from our clients’ play book, three of us followed them across the street.
And we were shocked.
Here were our clients, the same people who were nearly incommunicado in group, lively interacting with each other and with the proprietors of the store. It was literally like someone had turned on the electricity! They were alive! Even more strikingly, when they all returned to the clinic for group, they resumed their social withdrawal.
It was then that the format of the group changed. The results still bring a smile to my face years later.