When I was watching the war movie Dunkirk recently, I was struck by the comforting words of a nurse, shepherding shocked and wounded soldiers to the safe area at the bottom of the ship. In the midst of enemy planes flying overhead, she encourages her charges by telling them to go down below, where “there’s a nice cup of tea waiting”.
The soldiers didn’t know if they would still be alive in another hour, but the thought of that nice cup of tea gave them something to hold onto.
In mid-19th century England, the Temperance movement tried to counteract the effects of rampant alcohol consumption by coining the phrase “Tea—the drink that cheers but does not inebriate”, and the saying caught on.
So what is it about someone suggesting they have a nice cup of tea (or coffee) with you that lifts your spirits?
Certainly, a hot drink can warm us both physically and emotionally, but there is something more than that in the power of a cuppa.
When someone suggests that you have a cup of tea with them, they are not just offering a beverage, but their own time and company. And that’s where the power lies.
We humans are not meant to struggle through our tough times alone, and the comfort of a cuppa with a friendly shoulder is worth all the tea in China when you are feeling low.
Having observed the natural disasters this year in America and elsewhere, caused by earthquakes and floods, the television footage doesn’t just show the damage wreaked by nature, but also the support being given, human to human, in relief centres and shelters.
So many people volunteer at these times to provide food, drink and support to people who are suffering, as tragedy does often bring out the best side of human nature.
In Australia, the Salvos, the Country Women’s Association and the CFA (Country Fire Association) auxiliaries do a sterling job in times of fire and flood, always being there when they are needed, to provide physical and emotional sustenance.
There’s a proud history of this in the Salvos, with officers always braving the front line in war zones to provide that cuppa, biscuit and a chat. I recall my grandfather on active service in Palestine in the Second World War, saying that the presence of the Salvos got so many men through to the end of the war because the Salvo officers were always there right beside them, usually with that much-desired cuppa.
As Christians, we find there is a long tradition in the Bible of providing food, drink and fellowship.
Perhaps the most famous example of the importance of sharing a cuppa, a meal and company is in Jesus’ own words to the disciples: “For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me” (Matthew chapter 25, verse 35).
Time for a cuppa, anyone?