In Rhode Island, not a million miles from our studio, there lives a young man.
His name is Michael Coyne.
Since first hearing about him, he has become our inspiration.
His tale is one that we’re keen to share.
Michael has endured certain difficulties in his life, that much is clear.
Yet none has defeated him.
Once a Special Olympics athlete, Michael has autism, ADHD and bipolar disorder.
Such things might mark him out as being a little different.
This couldn’t be further from the truth.
For three years, though, Michael found employment impossible, with prospective employers reluctant to take a chance and give him the job that he craved.
He could have just given up.
But quitting? That has never been in Michael’s nature.
Instead, he enrolled on a business studies programme and, last month, he opened his own coffee shop in North Smithfield.
It’s called the Red, White and Brew Coffeehouse. It’s the most remarkable place.
Not because the boss is a young man with certain difficulties.
But because Michael is using his enterprise as a platform to bring people together.
To make connections and establish a community.
It’s that red thread again.
In North Smithfield, Michael is the knot that ties it all together.
“It is a beacon of hope for people with disabilities . . . [because] we just want to integrate,” explains Michael, for whom the coffeehouse is haven rooted in inclusivity.
“We’ve had parents come in with tears in their eyes,” adds Sheila, Michael’s mother and staunchest supporter. “We hope that these young people will eventually be accepted into the community, but it’s difficult for anyone with a disability. There’s a stigma, a misconception [as to] what they can and can’t do, and what they’re capable of. As parents, we look at our kids and we see the value. We see what they’re capable of, instead of the system that’s labelling them and putting up barriers.”
This is something that has made us stop and think hard in our studio this morning.
Because stigma does stand in inclusivity’s path.
Because labels can be shed, and barriers broken down.
Because Michael is shining a light and setting an example.
Because we are all connected.
In addition to a coffeehouse that is proving popular, the Coynes have established Budding Violet, an adjoining craft store that, as well as stocking items made by artists with disabilities, is also striving to be an inclusive employer.
Breaking down barriers, shedding labels and setting an example, we’re hoping to visit Michael and his family. We’ll stop for coffee. We might even take them an OM.
For those local to us, we’d like to encourage a trip to North Smithfield.
For those further afield, please give a little kindness, compassion and understanding, wherever it is that you live and whatever it is that you’re doing.
To put a stop to stigma.
To be more inclusive.
To take inspiration and to follow Michael’s lead.
Because barriers can be broken down.
No Life is Separate From Another, We Are All Connected.
Sometimes it’s the little things that reveal so much. Java is a traveling barista in the OM community. Java loves all kinds of coffee! But it’s not just for the taste. We’ve all had the experience of getting someone a cup of coffee, or receiving one ourselves. It’s become something of an everyday gesture. But Java comes alive every time it happens. That’s because whenever that cup trades hands, there’s a bit of love and kindness that’s shared with it. And on it goes, all around the world!
HAPPY NEW YEAR!
For more information on Michael’s Red, White and Brew coffee house, visit his fb page here