One reason I wanted to me his son Ian is because when I lived in Greenville, Michigan and told people my name, many asked if I knew this particular Ian. I'm not sure why, but it seems like some believe that people who share names all somehow know one another. Well, I can now say, I KNOW this Ian, the ex-Marine, father of four and lover of coffee.
That's the real reason I wanted to meet Ian. You see, about three months ago his dad sent me a bag of freshly roasted coffee beans. Turns out the two of them not only love coffee as much as I do, but together they started a small business venture called Flat River Roasters.
“Ever since I was young I’ve loved coffee.” Lucky for him “my parents are coffee snobs” and Ian learned the art of coffee starting on the right foot. Ian and his dad have always been close. “We hang out a lot. Roasting coffee is just another thing to do with him.”
The idea came when Ian read an article about using a cast iron pan to roast coffee beans. A few experiments later, they found that an air popcorn machine would do the trick. His love for coffee and his inquisitive mind would push the two of them to producing some of the best roasts I’ve ever tasted. But there’s more to the story.
When Ian was a teenager, his little Braeden brother passed away. Working alongside his father, the two roast beans to help raise money for a charity that they created – SuperBub's SuperHeroes – a Childhood Cancer Foundation started in memory of Braeden. I might be addicted to their coffee beans, but as a cancer survivor myself I have no problem donating to this cause (especially when I know I get a bag of beans as a thank you).
Ian shared a story when his platoon spent three cold and rainy days out in the field. “I refused to bring instant coffee with me like the other guys.” The man had his priorities, bringing with him a small fire pot that had a French press attachment. He made a cup and shared it with the others who were frozen and drenched. The mood shifted, and “we had reason to smile when there was nothing to smile about.” It was then Ian realized, “When you’re in a low place, coffee can go a long way.”
Ian is studying to be a mechanical engineer, working a side job, and raising children with his wife. If ever there is a need for caffeine it would be now. He drinks his with cream and sugar, knowing that he will get some coffee snubs for doing so. “I think you start tasting different notes in the beans with it.” Suffice it to say, we stopped that conversation right there. For the record, this Ian (me) drinks his coffee black.
Now, here are a few non-coffee related things you might like to know about the guy who shares my name. He has shot a crossbow, “But it wasn’t a good one.” He has never sailed a boat, “But I’d be up for it because I love water.” And he has no favorite Muppet, “I never watched it as a kid, and my kids haven’t seen it because they aren’t on the streaming services.” Suffice it to say, yet again, we stopped the conversation there.
Another fun story Ian shared with me was about the scar on his elbow that he recently got trying to help assist in a motorcycle accident. (Since serving in the Marines, he keeps an emergency medical bag in his car) It was raining, and the tread on the shoes Ian had on was all but gone. A bad combination. He slipped and skidded on his elbow. Ironic how someone who wanted to help someone else would quickly be the one who needed help. When a fireman saw blood pouring down his arm, and tried to tend to his wounds, Ian told him “The only thing that hurts is my pride.”
It was nice to get to know Ian. Like so many of us, COVID has been hard for him. As a student, his classes are mostly online. As a vet, the Veteran’s Lounge at the school is almost always empty. As a dad, he’s pretty much homebound when he’s not working. “It’s nice to do this with you because I haven’t met a lot of people lately.”
I felt his pain. As I took the last sip of what was now cold coffee, I truly understood what he meant when he said, “When you’re in a low place, coffee can go a long way.” It really can. I have a feeling our friendship will too – even if he stops roasting beans…suffice it say, I’m going to stop right there.
An ex-copywriter turned punk rock pastor and peacemaker who dedicates his life to making the world a better place for all humanity.
"that they all might be one" ~John 17:21
“Prius vita quam doctrina.”
~ St. Thomas Aquinas (1225–1274)
* “Life is more important than doctrine.”