A small way to make space for intentional relationships.
I looked up from an ocean of papers to spy the owner of the voice; a freckled-faced freshman whose name I couldn’t quite recall at the moment. It had only been two weeks since all 47 of the new residents had moved in.
“Hi there, …” I said, groping about in the recesses of my mind for her name. “Christine!” I said, more as a triumph than a greeting. “What’s up? How are you this evening?”
Christine smiled and pushed her head further through the crack in my barely opened door.
“Oh, nothing too much. I had my first chemistry class today; I don’t know if I want to be a doctor anymore.” She laughed a little mirthlessly and tucked a strand of blond hair behind her ear.
“Oh, lovely! I’d love to ask you about it…” I paused for a moment.
I was only two weeks into school and already had assignments piling up; in addition to this, I had briefs to write for an upcoming debate tournament. The truth was that Christine had caught me on the way to the library. But I was torn; as a newly instated Resident Advisor, I was idealistic and attempting to suppress my desire to be the best friend of every resident. All 47 of them.
Bonding time! I thought to myself. Library! Myself countered.
Christine smiled with a quiet desperation that could have knocked Thoreau clean out.
“Hey! Can I fix you a quick cup of tea? I’d love to hear about your day! I have to go to the library in a bit, but I have time for tea.”
Christine smiled, and stepped all the way in my room.
“Here, come pick a mug!”
I showed her over to the wicker basket holding my eclectic conglomeration of mugs: two generic but sturdy red mugs bought for me by my parents when I was a freshman, four black and white tea mugs with diverse, spidery patterns, a menagerie of owl themed mugs, and, my favorite, the earthy hand painted mug my mother brought me from Poland. Christine favored owl mug 1: a cheerful mug sporting the visages of numerous colorful owls.
“Have you ever tried Yorkshire Gold?” I asked.
She had not.
I beamed. Ah, the delight of introducing someone to the absolute best tea in the world.
As I boiled the water, poured the tea, and doctored it to the exact right proportions, Christine followed me about and talked. And talked and talked. Fifteen minutes later found us seated on my shaggy carpet (no need in my dorm room for such luxuries as a couch that could fit two people), Christine chattering away. For a moment she was quiet.
“I don’t have a best friend yet,” She said, tears swimming in her oval eyes. “I know it’s silly… it’s just been two weeks… but I thought I would find a best friend at school.”
I remembered that feeling and smiled, thinking what a gift my best-friend/roommate was (and still is!).
“Just give it a few more weeks. Friendship takes time.”
“Thanks,” she said, wiping away a rogue tear and draining the last sip from her mug.
“Hey, this tea is amazing,” she said. “I should go… Chemistry.”
“No worries. And any time you feel lonely, pop by for a cup of tea.”
Many of those fresh-eyed freshman have graduated now, but I think back on that year fondly. I consider one of my greatest accomplishments in college to be converting my whole floor (and change!) to a heartfelt love of Yorkshire Gold. But, more than that, I cherish the treasure of the friendships I made over those cups of tea.
Sharing a cup of tea provides just enough time to be kind.
As with most students, in college I was frequently so busy I could hardly remember my own name. But as a friend and an R.A., I found tea times to be a humane institution in my busy weekdays. Though I couldn’t take the time to go off campus for lunch, I could manage a cup of tea between classes. This provided a rhythm of care and attentiveness for personal relationships.
Making someone tea is so very personal.
You get your own mug, your own tea bag, and your own fixin’s (I prefer one scoop of sugar and plenty of milk). To share tea you have to be prepared. Though it is a small thing, it creates a connection and a sense of intentionality.
So often, the tyranny of the urgent rules my life. I rush from one task list to the next, never stopping to peek into my soul or ask my neighbor how they are doing.
I am far gone from college, but I continue the practice of tea times with friends. Practicing tea time creates little pockets of personal relationship in my life. It interrupts my schedule with connection and companionship. And the thing about tea? There is always time for tea. No matter how busy you are, everyone benefits from a dignified moment of quiet or conversation.
So I would challenge you: have a tea time with a friend soon. Get out your prettiest mugs, light a candle, play music, and ask your friend a question. It can be as simple as plopping on your shaggy rug with two cups of tea. Create space for intentional, kind relationships in your life.
Because there is always time for tea.
Oh, and by the way, I do highly recommend Yorkshire Gold.
Joy Clarkson is a featured columnist and the Director of Marketing at Humane Pursuits. She is a graduate of Biola University, and also spent time as a visiting student at Oxford University studying C.S. Lewis, Literature, and Theology. Her days are spent helping people and companies tell their stories well, pondering, writing, singing, and drinking too much Yorkshire Gold tea.