Michele Chapman made the introduction, with a twist. SPiN Cafe’s Executive Director, full of gratitude and admiration, presented David Thorson, saying: “You can’t be The Morning Person without being a morning person.”
It sounds obvious, but it’s still impressive. Not everyone can pull off what David Thorson does, with the enthusiasm David brings with him every morning. And he’s so matter of fact when he describes arriving at SPiN daily at 6AM. Listen close, and you’ll hear the smile in his voice.
“I unlock, prepare SPiN for guests to arrive, get the coffee going, breakfast and snacks ready.” And most important, David says, “I’m there to make SPiN Cafe comfortable and safe for our guests. Especially safe. That means sometimes I have to go over our code of conduct with them, and when I do, it’s all about safety.”
David was in high school when his youth group at Living Word Church volunteered to help serve meals at SPiN Café. After graduating, he joined Living Word’s internship program to train for the ministry.
The early months of 2020 changed the world as we knew it, and Covid-19 put SPiN’s meal service program on the street, literally. The isolation threw Living Word’s interns off their game, but only briefly. In April of 2020, as described right here on these pages, Living Word’s internship program – including David Thorson – stepped up to help. They prepared and served sack meals of sandwiches, fruit, and chips, every Monday at Flintstone Park downtown.
After a year serving SPiN guests once a week, “when I heard about this job as The Morning Person [ed.: caps added], I was already dedicated to what SPiN does so I applied right away.” David still sounds like he’s surprised at getting the job. “I thought about it, prayed about it, and decided yes, this is where I’m needed.” He’s glad he did.
“My job is communication,” David says. “I talk to guests, listen and understand them, I hear their stories. I try to find out what SPiN can do to help them.”
David often breaks the ice with new guests by asking where they’re from. “Many grew up right here on Whidbey, and if not, most have ties here. And even if they came all the way from somewhere else just because of what we offer them, it’s a win, right?”
Of course it is. And that may be the best thing that goes on this page today, about David and about the little things SPiN does to serve our guests:
It’s a win.
But David hears those other voices in the community. He sees the hardness of hearts that refuse to believe homelessness and the personal roads that lead to it are a homegrown problem here.
“I get it,” he says. “People aren’t educated about what puts others in this position. In fact, I’ve been on the island almost my whole life, and if you’d told me just a few years ago how big of a problem this is, I wouldn’t have believed you. It’s a huge problem, and people don’t understand the depth of it. When I talk to people about what SPiN does, and who we serve, I just remind them ‘these are your neighbors. Broken people, vulnerable people, going through their lives.’”
Growing up, David’s family and his faith formed the attitude that drives him today. “I was taught to treat people the way I want to be treated, to use love and compassion. I try to live my life that way. The world can be super broken, and we need to show kindness.”
Some days are tough for David. Conversations with people who are broken and hurting have left David conflicted when he gets to go home to his other life, while those he meets at work are still living out their sometimes-tragic stories. He says it’s easy to take on those burdens personally.
“But I’m learning to keep it in perspective. I try to treat it as a privilege to hear each guest’s unique background. When they know I’m listening, respecting them, they know it’s safe to let out their whole life story. It’s my job just to listen, to give them dignity, to look at them as humans. Not to fix everyone.”
Asked if today’s work at SPiN, in his early 20’s, might lead him into Christian ministry or another service profession, David isn’t ready to commit.
“We’ll see where life leads me, but if this is the type of career I’m supposed to pursue, then it will fall into place.”
That seems like a win for everyone.