Finding common ground over coffee…and donuts

I set out this morning to drive to Lockport’s Dunkin Donuts to buy some coffee to support Monica Jex.  A good friend and I settled in with giant cups of steamy coffee and breakfast sandwiches, watching people come and go in the tiny eatery. A simple sign on the doors told visitors that the money from the day’s coffee purchases was going to the widow of a fallen soldier.

Many regular customers were blissfully unaware of the controversy swelling over the business and owner RumitPatel. The red, white and blue balloons and patriotic swirls in support of a hometown hero were cheerful, and the atmosphere was cosy and inviting. It was the presence of photographers and television station  videographers that made it a bit surreal. Many people had not heard of the hateful emails sparked by a misunderstanding, or the personal attacks levied at a responsible businessman.

I felt compelled to speak to Mr. Patel, to shake his hand and apologize for the intolerance in our corner of the world. I met a smiling, pleasant man who was trying to make the best of a bad situation. An attack on character wounds deeply and I sensed that the injustice of these accusations has weighed heavily on Mr. Patel. I find it especially admirable that he chose not to respond to the attacks or to strike back. Instead, he chose to honor Jex by helping his widow. That speaks volumes about his character and pride in his business and community.

For today, if you ignored he cameras and reporters, it was a day to come together as part of a larger family to help heal wounds of all kinds. It is no longer okay to just ignore ignorance, hatred and racism. We can no longer just walk on by the injustices done to others and pretend it does not affect us personally. We have to speak up, fight back and try to be a voice of reason.

It may sound overly dramatic to say that we need to wage war on intolerance. It is that same intolerance of those of different religions, etnicity or politics that lead to wars across the globe that rob us of our valiant young men and women in uniform!  This is America, the melting pot. How can we hope to show other countries  the way to democracy and peace if we cannot find unity among ourselves?

Thank you to all who showed up today to share coffee and to show support for a fallen hero and a local business. May it bring us all closer to common ground.

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