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New Lifetree Café in Willmar, Minn., invites discussion on wide range of topics

The Goodness, a new coffee shop in downtown Willmar, recently became a Lifetree Café. Every Sunday night, the coffeehouse holds a Lifetree event, where participants watch a short video and hold a discussion afterward. Topics at the events have included identity theft, forgiveness, lying, racism and more. (Submitted photo )

WILLMAR — Coffee shops have long been known as places where friends can gather over a latte or shot of espresso and discuss life’s tough questions.

In Willmar, one coffeehouse hopes to bring strangers — as well as friends — together to do the same.

The Goodness, a new coffee shop in downtown Willmar, was recently designated as a Lifetree Café. A nationwide movement, Lifetree Cafés have been “planted” at coffeehouses across the United States since the first one opened in 2010.

Today, there are 350 Lifetree Cafés operating or about to open, with three already established in Minnesota. The Goodness became a Lifetree Café shortly after it opened in March.

The Goodness holds a Lifetree Café event each Sunday at 6 p.m. The events usually consist of a 10- to 15-minute video about a topic, with about 45 minutes left for discussion among participants.

“We decided to become a Lifetree Café to connect with the community and bring together people from all different backgrounds,” said Chris Davis, host of The Goodness’s Lifetree Café. “It’s a lot of fun to meet new people and hear opinions that might be different than yours.”

Topics at each week’s Lifetree Café range from “pretty safe,” such as protecting yourself from identity theft or the existence of UFOs, to more controversial topics, Davis said.

For example, this Sunday’s program is called “Amazing Grace.” Terri Roberts, the mother of a man who killed five Amish girls in a one-room schoolhouse in 2006, will be featured on the video to tell her story. After the shooting, Roberts has said that the Amish community extended her forgiveness and supported her through a very difficult time.

“In the video, Terri Roberts walks through the day of shooting and the realization that her child committed one of the most heinous crimes toward children in history,” said Craig Cable, the national director of Lifetree Café, in a phone interview last week. “The Amish not only moved quickly to forgive her son, but they were instrumental in her healing as well. This is a story that anyone dealing with forgiveness or healing can benefit from hearing.”

All of the Lifetree Café events relate to faith and spirituality, although people from all backgrounds — religious or not — can attend, Cable said.

“Lifetree addresses topics that everyone is talking about, but often the faith community will not be a part of that discussion,” Cable said. “We love to create that opportunity for intersection. We welcome people from all walks of life to share their perspectives on what they believe and why they believe it.”

In Willmar, turnout for the events has usually been around 12 or 15 people. Davis said he hopes to grow the Lifetree Café and see more people attend from all areas of the community.

Having these conversations with people outside your normal social circles can broaden your perspective and strengthen your own beliefs, he said.

“We need to have these conversations with people who don’t feel the same way we do,” Davis said. “We need to understand how other people feel and why they have a different opinion, and in that conversation, we may also learn why we feel the way we do. I think it’s a bad thing to try to protect your opinion by never listening to anyone else’s. We would really like to see people be challenged at the Lifetree Café.”

If you go…

What: Lifetree Café events. Participants watch a short video on a topic and discuss afterward.

Where: The Goodness, 333 Litchfield Ave. SW, Willmar

When: Sundays at 6 p.m.

Cost: Free. Coffee and snacks are also free.

Ashley White

Ashley White is the community content coordinator for the West Central Tribune. Follow her on Twitter @Ashley_WCT.

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