I walk into The Mill and the smell of espresso and old books instantly hits me. The familiar creek of the wooden floorboards invites me, like going to my grandma’s house and feeling that sense of belonging. Everyone is in their own little world here, either staring at a screen with headphones in or discussing deep philosophical thoughts with their friends. This is the place where the inspiration is as strong as the coffee.
There are holes in the brick walls that are home to handwritten notes, authored by strangers. If you are curious enough to reach your hand inside, you will find words of wisdom or perhaps just a drawing. There are old planes that hang from the ceiling and a beat up motorcycle from the 1950s sitting on the window sill. The mismatch chairs seem to fit perfectly with their table counterparts. Even the restrooms are unique in that they aren’t gender specified. The environment here feels so accepting, like you could be exactly who you are, and no one would object. I often find myself getting lost in time here. It’s as if life on the outside the creaky, old door stops. It’s easy to let the hours melt away here whether I’m studying or sipping an Americano.
The windows allow you to watch the people in the city walking down the streets. As they go by I can’t help but wonder where they are in such a hurry to get to. I wonder where they are going, what they have planned for the day, or if they are fortunate enough to have a place to call home. A place to belong. Sometimes when I look out the window I can see the sorry glances from homeless people on the streets and the “it’s none of my business” looks from the people that brush past them without even acknowledging them. It’s kind of sickening to see how inhumanly the city of Lincoln treats the homeless. Before I came to the university, I had never seen real homelessness. I suppose that comes with living a sheltered life in a comfortable suburb of Omaha. It’s hard to imagine being stripped of basic necessities. I didn’t realize how much I took for granted until I saw people who carried their entire lives in a plastic trash bag. I feel ashamed to live in a city that doesn’t take care of its people, or maybe it doesn’t know how.