Inspiration by the cupful

COFFEE WITH WARREN, with Warren Harbeck
Cochrane Eagle, August 8, 2001

Coffee with Warren is all about you – your ideas and experiences, dreams and struggles. You are the coffee companions at our table who have made this column the inspiring conversation that it has become.

We sit down together as if in one of Cochrane's friendly coffee houses. All around us are hints of the grand history of this Alberta foothills community nestled in the beautiful Bow River Valley west of Calgary – Lloyd Dolen's cowboy poetry, the Stoney Nakoda First Nation at Morley, buffalo hooves echoing across the pages of time, sculpted landscape of geological ages past.

Most of you folks around our table know this area well. This is your home.

Others of you join our virtual coffee table by e-mail from every continent except Antarctica. (Any penguins interested in becoming e-mail coffee companions?)

And what do we talk about at this crossroads?

Longtime coffee companion and global volunteer Leslie Davies put it this way: "One of the greatest gifts we can give one another is to be present, that is, to truly bend our heart and spirit towards others, to take time to listen and to care."

One Cochrane hero to whom we have bent our hearts is town Coun. Ross Watson. Last year he told us of his struggles and determination in reaching the summit of Canada's highest peak, 5,959m Mount Logan – the first blind person ever to make the ascent.

Blindness never stopped another of our coffee companions, either – the late Becky Beaver of Morley, granddaughter of the great Stoney Nakoda chief, Hector Crawler. Though blind from her youth, she was meticulous in her beadwork, tanning of hides, and berry picking. "I knew I had to face this world regardless of what troubles I had," she said. "We shouldn't be sorry for what we are. We are to live the life God has given us."

Breast cancer victim Barb Cameron is another who refused to be sorry for what she is. Following bilateral mastectomies, she determined to make a difference in her world. "You can't change history," she told us. She is now a volunteer with Reach to Recovery.

Then there's retired Stoney Nakoda First Nation band councillor and wellness facilitator Tina Poucette Fox. She painted for us a picture of pain and betrayal, the bitter legacy of Indian residential schools. There can be no hope of justice until society owns up to this evil, she said.

Elder and former chief of the Bearspaw Band of the Stoney Nakoda First Nation Bill McLean shared with us his struggle to rise above his bitterness from those residential school days. He told of how he has committed his life to building bridges of forgiveness and reconciliation among nations.

We've visited the stars farthest out and the particles farthest in, and have celebrated the cosmos through the insights of Franciscan astronomer/friar, the late Lucian Kemble (known affectionately as "Lamplighter" to all who knew him personally).

We've chatted with those, both young and old, who beautify our valley – and our world – in song and dance; in painting, stained glass, writing, theatre, gardening, hospitality, romance, social action, acts of honesty, responsible industry, environmental protection, caring for the sick and elderly, and laughing in the face of adversity.

You see, you my coffee companions are my mentors in the journey of life, a journey that has as its destination nothing less than perfection of Love – love for God and love for each other.

And as I have often said, it is a journey that follows along two rails of a track. The one rail is the motto of The Christophers: "It's better to light one candle than to curse the darkness." The other is a quote from Dostoevsky: "The world will be saved by beauty."

That's why this column is all about you. Once more, welcome to our table.

© 2001 Warren Harbeck

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