Sorrow. Anger. Inspiration.

Rocky RhodesIf you are a regular reader of CoffeeTalk, you will know that I get a pretty free reign to write about a topic that moves me in the coffee world. And usually I try to find a topic that is not something that everyone is talking about and try to do it in a way that might make you think about something new. This will not be the case for this article however. I am going to write about something that has affected every one of us deeply. I am of course referring to the Boston bombings.
Before I continue, please know that I am writing this in the first person because these are MY opinions and may or may not reflect those of CoffeeTalk. But again, they are letting me write about what I think will move the coffee industry reader.
There was something else going on in Boston that weekend other than the Marathon. It was of course SCAA’s ‘The Event’ and Symposium. If you were not there, shame on you! It was arguably one of the best conferences yet. My hats off to the SCAA for continuing to find new ways to engage its membership and provide new and interesting levels to the industry.
Many of you experience the industry in the same way as me; The Event is a place where we not only come to learn and do some business, but a place where we get to see old friends, and dare I say extended family. At times it takes on a fraternal feeling that tends to deepen the connection between us.  This industry is like no other in that we desire that every company is successful and are more likely to help a competitor than see them fail. In the top end of the coffee market, which is where we operate, we know that a rising tide raises all ships.
Our ‘family’ extends to all ends of the earth. At this conference there were representatives from dozens of countries and every continent. (Antarctica?) Anyway, our desire to help extends beyond the borders of the United States and into every part of the world that either produces or consumes coffee, and that is pretty much the whole darn globe.
Our family, along with every civilized human being, was attacked on Monday, April 15th, at the Boston Marathon. I was fortunate enough to leave Boston on Sunday night, getting back to Los Angeles at about 1am Monday. I was euphorically exhausted from another great SCAA show. I went about my business on Monday until I got the news about the attack. Like most people, I had to stop for a second to try and make sense out of what was happening. Then the realization hit me that a huge number of my coffee family were still in Boston and some were going to the Marathon.
I started sending messages to find out if everyone was ok. It took a while, but everyone I knew was there was accounted for and ok. There were a couple of close calls. In particular, I knew my Kenyan friend Mbula and my Vermont friend Rick were at the race and it turns out they were in proximity to the bombs. Close enough to hear and feel the explosions. When I knew everyone was ok, I fell to my knees and cried.  SORROW for all those dead, injured and traumatized.
After some grieving, I was flooded with an emotion that I do not enjoy, and don’t experience often; ANGER. I really wanted to lash out at whatever M*th$rF@#er did this and get some blood. I realize that this is a normal reaction, although probably not the most healthy. But I was to my core willing to bring a little justice down on somebody and I was not considering the court system! This feeling lasted for a while but it gave way, as it usually does, to the feeling of wanting to do something positive.
I made a decision to channel my negative feelings into the most powerful question that I could think of at the time: “ What could I do to show that I will not be terrorized AND make a difference in the world so this might not happen again.” You see, I believe in the whole ‘ripple effect’ theory. What was the pebble I could throw in the pond? When you ask powerful questions, you get powerful answers. My INSPIRATION is this: I am going to run the marathon next year AND I am going to ask my coffee family to join me! I was so enthralled with my own brilliance that I went out for a run. About ½ mile of wheezing later… I was committed! I sent the word out to some friends and family and the response has been, well, astonishing! I have two people that have agreed to do it with me and support from many others.
Now we fast forward to one week later. The two thugs are dead and captured. (Thank you to all the agencies and citizens that made it possible! Great work!) I am sitting in Colombia and even here we are ecstatic about the capture of the second idiot. But some time has passed, and some important information has come to light: Apparently you have to QUALIFY for the Boston marathon. There is a pretty strong chance that our newly formed team will not get invited to run. INSPIRATION number 2 hit me! Have a “Coffee Marathon”.
Here is my working plan in progress. We will have a run in Boston at the same time but we will start at a ‘Coffee Place’ and run to other coffee places along the way. People can join for all of the run, segments of the run, or just party at one of the various stops. This way the whole industry can get involved. Our family can stand tall and say we won’t be bullied by thugs! We can have a HUGE ripple effect as runners from Indonesia and Kenya and Colombia etc. join in this effort. Our industry can do what it does best: Lead by example and challenge each other to do better.
So this is my open call to my coffee family: Join me in Boston in 2014 for a ‘Coffee Industry Caffeine-a-thon.’ (It’s a working title). I will post more info on If this story inspires you, send me an email. I would love to hear what you think!
I am already up to a mile!
Rocky can be reached at

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