The One about A Dream We Didn’t Know Existed

As a math teacher, my husband was trained to do a backward design approach to lesson planning. This is when you start with your overall mastery goals or assessment and then you plan for the ways you will teach the process in order to have kids reach this level. It’s pretty formulaic system that served him well over the years. (ahem, Teacher of the Year, tops scores in the district in a Title One school, I could go on and on about that but that’d be braggin’…I digress.) 

What Tony’s learned in his life is that this isn’t the right approach when thinking of how we are going to “do good” in the world around us. In fact, over the years he’s come to learn it’s the exact opposite.

“Doing good” can’t start with the overall mastery goal. It can’t start with the big dream to change the world.  It has to start with the process and that process starts with people. People first, always.

A few years ago Tony started our coffee roasting company out in our backyard called Enderly Coffee. It was never on our radar when we decided to move to Enderly Park. It hasn’t been a formulaic system or a well thought out approach right from the beginning. We didn’t dream to leave our teaching jobs and the goal has never been to get our names in publications around the city.

It started out with just us trying to be a good neighbor. We moved to Enderly Park 10 years ago with the intention of being in a neighborhood similar to the neighborhoods we were working in so that we could have a better perspective of who are students were from the environments around them.

We didn’t come to change the world or flip a neighborhood, we just wanted to be good neighbors and we hoped in that way we could mend some healing in the divides that seemed prevalent around our city through being intentional teachers and good neighbors. (I will say, however, I had dreams of high grander if I’m honest. We’ll change all the perceptions, I said. We’ll get everyone we teach out of poverty, I said. And it’ll only take like a  few years….boy I’m glad I married Tony. He’s grounded and rooted me and reminded me over and over again that big plans and dreams very rarely start out the way we think and first our egos must die…over and over again. Thank you sweet Jesus for my husband.)

What we both soon realized was we had a lot to learn about just how wonderful the people around us really are and equally a lot to learn about just how broken the cycle of generational poverty is and just how limiting our scope as a teacher would be to see real change around our city…especially a city ranked the worst for upward mobility from the 50th largest cities in the United States. 

And that’s how Enderly Coffee was born:

It came from staying put somewhere,

taking a look around,

gaining all the knowledge we learned,

and pushing into something that we hoped would bring change in a new way.

What Tony has taught me, what he already knew deep down, was that its the little things that can turn into a dream we never new existed…

The only way to figure out the dream is to follow what’s on your heart, get started in the little ways, stay put, and let it evolve over time. Real change takes times, a lot of sweat, tears, and a hell of a lot of work. It’s not idealist, romantic, easy, or devoid of heartache. 

I have no idea what the road of Enderly Coffee will be some day (although I do know construction just started on our coffee shop. Opening summer/fall 2017.) What I do know is that it has definitely transformed us, our first employee, and there is way more work to be done. 

But let me be clear, we aren’t any different than anyone else and we ALL have a job to do if real change in our city will ever be a reality.

For us, we are hopeful, though. Hopeful that Enderly Coffee will continue to expand so we can hire more employees within our neighborhood, production can increase and be a marker for others’ perspectives to change their mind about West Charlotte. That our coffee shop will be a third place for various people to connect that might not have ever bumped up against each other, that along with many of our wonderful neighbors we can approach generational poverty in a new way outside of the classroom, and that at the end of it we can look back and see the dream morph into something we haven’t thought of yet.

So how do you leave a mark? How do you “do good” around you? Just get started. For the love, just get started. Don’t wait for the big dream. Don’t talk it out, plan it out, and come up with the formulaic system. Life doesn’t work that way. Just start where you are. 

But whatever the dream is, make sure it includes people first. Always people first. That’s how we shift and change the world around us.

And for us?

It’s one coffee at a time. 

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