Kindness off the Beaten Path

Joplin coffee shop serves up smiles
John Baker Converses With Tiffany Twigger

JOPLIN, Mo. – Beaten Path, just two doors down from Soul’s Harbor, is John Baker’s newest venture: a coffee shop and art gallery that’s piqued some interest from the neighbors.

“My initial thought was: They’re opening something new, but there’s going to be so many more people coming by and just thinking, ‘Oh no, here’s a whole bunch of homeless people,'” said Tiffany Twigger.

More than Coffee

Tiffany is a mother of four who fled an abusive situation. She’s been staying at Soul’s Harbor for about a month and she’s quickly become a fan of Baker’s coffee and his kindness. A smile, a cup of coffee, and a listening ear goes a long way for people who may often feel overlooked.

“He understands and he is proud to be next to somewhere that is doing so much for people who may be struggling, going through something, you know? And it doesn’t bother him, and he doesn’t feel that it’s going to affect his business none. He chose to be here,” said Twigger.

A Mission to Give

While many people would shy away from opening a business this close to a homeless shelter, John Baker calls it a blessing.

“God sends people here to us, and every time that God has ever sent someone here to us, it has been in a way that we can help them. That’s why I know that this is our ministry. It’s not like, ‘Oh, well, we could try to help them. No, it’s like, here is the way to help them right here,'” Baker expressed.

Baker feels a strong connection to this place and the people nearby. He himself experienced homelessness when he was younger, but admits he had forgotten how difficult it was. Countless cups of coffee and conversation has brought back his sense of empathy.

Connecting over Conversation

“When I came back and started connecting with these people, it reconnected me with that route of who I was. And, I was like, ‘Man, it was so easy for me to get there. It’s just that easy for someone else to get there over a couple of bad decisions and a bad month,'” Baker realized.

“You got to know everybody’s story. Not everybody is homeless by choice…I had everything going for me. House, car, everything. And, just because of a bad relationship, it was all ripped away with nowhere to go all at once,” Twigger said.

Spreading Kindness

Baker says there’s no other place he’d want his business to be and challenges others to practice kindness.

“Who’s to say that this isn’t a hub of happiness? That, if you start it here, it will spread across this town like a like a good virus, you know, and spread happiness. Which, let’s be honest, we could all use a good dose of smile right now,” Baker said with a smile of his own.

Baker emphasized that Soul’s Harbor is right where it needs to be. He hopes more people will take the time to get to know the residents staying at the shelter by volunteering or simply having a conversation with them.