What began as an exercise regimen soon became a daily breakfast phenomenon that turned our lives around through this pandemic situation

Our coffee camaraderie will stand the test of time. Image by Hans Vivek from Unsplash

Last year, before the coronavirus pandemic hit Singapore, I began an exercise regimen to lose weight and achieve a more fit and toned body. I began with regular workouts at a gym nearby and looked forward to the workouts, which helped me clear my work stress and eventually helped me drop a shirt size from Large to Medium.

When the coronavirus pandemic hit Singapore early this year and the gyms had to close, I changed my exercise regimen to early morning walks where I would usually cover between 8 and 9km (5 to 5.5 miles) per hour before heading for a cup of kopi o kosong (Malay for coffee sans milk or sugar) and then back home for a shower before heading to work.

During one of those walks, an old friend from church told me that he saw me walking home while he was driving his son to school nearby. My friend later asked if I would like to join him for breakfast after he dropped his son at school. As the timings were within my schedule, I agreed

Brekky times

That first coffee and breakfast session soon became a regular event, where we would take the time to discuss the coronavirus pandemic, our families, working from home and a host of other issues. Sometimes, we would just enjoy each other’s company and pray for each other to get through the week and its uncertainties.

Our breakfast meetings soon grew to become important daily staples as the pandemic progressed. As the pandemic progressed in Singapore and life and jobs were disrupted, our breakfast chats became almost essential parts of our lives. We often also connected through the week on WhatsApp and I began sharing Scripture verses with him daily, a practice that I have continued to this day.

We talked about our families and I soon learnt that my friend, who was a successful and respected senior faculty member of a nearby polytechnic, was struggling with numerous family issues, especially with his daughter who had severe anxiety and self-esteem issues, which had led to her studies being severely affected. These issues were causing strain in his marriage and he often had sleepless nights where he questioned his faith.

Beyond just coffee buddies

I saw these breakfast sessions as opportunities to be with him and walk alongside him in his distress. But I also realised that the chats were very helpful to me as well. His clear thinking and logic helped me greatly as I navigated the coronavirus pandemic and the resultant work disruptions, especially coping with working from home. I was finding it difficult to cope with the new situation that had arisen and sharing my concerns and fears with him over breakfast was almost cathartic.

But his presence was especially helpful when I was laid off in August this year. The economic downturn that arose from the coronavirus pandemic had worsened and I was eventually let go in August. When I met my friend and told him the situation, he prayed for me, advised me and encouraged me to hang in there and stay the course when I send out my resumes and had yet to receive any replies from employers.

When I managed to land a contract job, he was among the first to cheer for me and encourage me that better times would soon be in store. Meanwhile, we continued to pray for each other and I advised him and encouraged him as his daughter’s behaviour became more erratic and it sometimes felt as if all hope was lost for her.

Meanwhile, the situation with my friend’s daughter was a roller-coaster ride of small wins and often bigger failures. But I encouraged him to pray, seek counsel and share his fears with his wife. When he faced small wins, he shared them with me and I would cheer him on,, and encourage him along the way!

Blooming where we are planted

Coffee camaraderie has made us prayer and sharing buddies. Image from Unsplash

By late October, both of us realised that the simple breakfast chats had grown into a way for us to connect and strengthen our friendship and identities as Christians. Thanks to these breakfast sessions, we had reached out to each other.

Most of all, my friend’s presence had helped me navigate the uncertainties during this coronavirus pandemic time, and he had reassured me that he would always be there for me whenever I hit any snags or obstacles.

The breakfast sessions still continue to this day, and I am always so thankful for the presence of this dear friend in my life. As Asians, we have always found that food is a great connector and it was no different in this case!

Thank you, dear friend, for giving of yourself and your time so fully and so freely to me!

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