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Bars count. Coffee shops count. A gun range counts. Even a park bench counts. Each of these places is a “third place.” A third place is a location other than home or work. It is a spot where you congregate with others who have similar interests, cares, or passions. Ray Oldenburg made the phrase “third place” commonplace in his book The Great Good Place.
Oh, and for all my church-going friends, churches are not a third place. Deep, personal conversations are had around books and brews – which has actually become the name of one such third place. It’s like me going to a jazz club: I want to be with people who enjoy jazz as much as I do. There, we have camaraderie amongst friends because we have the same interests.
I was reminded of the importance of place when I read Elizabeth C. Corey’s article “Breakfast at Kim’s” in First Things journal, linked in this Truth in Two. Corey was interviewing folks for her research on the importance of a local hangout at an eatery called Kim’s in Waco, Texas. Asked why he had been coming to Kim’s for over 50 years, a patron named Max, found the question too hard to answer. But after he had thought a while, Max paused, then said the main draw to his third place was being known. Everyone from the waitresses to the busboys to the owner is a friend.
I have talked about this article to many of my friends. People want to be known. They want to feel human. Folks want connection, they want incarnation, they want someone like them sitting on the stool next to them. If this sounds vaguely biblical, you’re right. Jesus came to “make the Father known” according to the apostle John. And for us, Paul’s words ring true: “We are letters, known and read of all men.” So hit me up if you want to hear some good jazz. We’ll enjoy a third place together.
For Truth in Two, this is Dr. Mark Eckel, president of the Comenius Institute, personally seeking truth wherever it’s found.