Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Leaps of Faith: The Dorina Groves Interview

This interview marks the opening of a new front on thunderstrokes.  I’m expanding the scope of the blog to include interviews with people who have interesting, or even amazing, stories to tell about themselves.

I am particularly fascinated by stories involving a ‘leap of faith.’  I’ve taken the proverbial leap once or twice myself (in fact, the blog itself is one).  I am endlessly fascinated by others’ experiences, and learning more about where the impulse to make vastly logic-defying moves comes from, how it all comes into being, and then, of course, assessing the consequences.  I guess part of me is always seeking to understand things better, and leaps of faith can seem like mysterious, or incomprehensible, creatures.   

Dorina Groves’ story falls into the amazing category, at least for me.  This is a woman who walked away from the life she had built for herself, which included owning and operating a coffee shop here in Phoenix called “The Coffee Grove.”  A few weeks ago, she set out on the road in her ‘hoopty,’ an old camper she obtained in a trade for her car, to spread a message of hope to the people she knows are out there right now feeling lost and lacking faith in life and themselves.   That’s all you really need to know for the following interview to make sense, although part one of this two-part set provides a good deal of useful background information.   

I feel extremely fortunate that Dorina Groves made the time to talk to me, even as she was trying to tie up all the loose ends of the life she was leaving behind, and making last-minute preparations for the great adventure to come.  We talked for two hours after she closed the store on her last Thursday at The Coffee Grove.  In the moment, the conversation we had was inspiring, and I was inspired over and over again as I transcribed her words and then put together the interview you are about to read. 

At the end of part one, I posed a question that was probably foremost in many readers’ minds, along the lines of:  “What could possibly possess someone to get rid of almost everything they own at the age of 40, buy a dilapidated ’78 Dodge camper, and travel across the country to spread the word that, ‘If you have a pulse, you have a purpose?’” Here to answer that question, in her own words, is Ms. Groves. 

Leaps of Faith:  Dorina Groves, Interview

When did you decide that a cross-country trip in a camper was in your future?  Where did that inspiration come from?

In February, Valentine’s Day weekend I think it was, I had had some cocktails on a Saturday night.  Didn’t go out, just stayed home, but on Sunday morning I woke up, and I just felt bad. And I asked myself, when was the last time I made a good decision when I was drinking?  And then I asked myself when was the last time I was really, really happy?  And it was when my faith was strong.  I’m not religious at all, I oppose anybody who calls me religious, or churchy, or da, da, da.  But it was when my faith was strong. And that’s when I experienced [the kind of feelings that you] want to bottle up . . . and give to people that you love because it’s amazing. And so, then and there I said I need to make a choice.  God and happiness, or irresponsibility and partying and…yeah, being miserable. And I chose God. I’m like, “Okay.” And then, I had this tattoo by then, the ‘If you have a pulse, you have a purpose’ tattoo. 

And I kind of looked down; I was sitting at my desk, and I was like, “I want to drive a truck across the country with this on my arm.”  And I thought, “This is my future.”  And, right there, it just gripped my heart.  Just penetrated me, and I came into the shop that day and said, “I’m doing this.”

So the tattoo provided the inspiration.  You have several others.  Would you care to share what they say?

I like tattoos.  I put on my body what’s really important to me.  This one says, “If you don’t have faith, you always have fear.” I read it somewhere.  [It’s in Greek] because I didn’t want to put it in English.  I didn’t want to do something tribal, but I didn’t want it in English either.  And it was small, and I knew that it would hurt less (laughs).  And then after that I did the “purpose produces passion.” And… it’s true. The last one is from the movie Soul Surfer, and it says, “I don’t need easy, I just need possible.”  I love that quote.

Even before this trip, and before the tattoo, you were interested in inspiring people. Why don’t you talk a little about the “Get Inspired” wall that you started in your coffee shop… 

The 'Get Inspired' wall at the Coffee Grove
I know that coffee shops are places where people go to complain.  Complain is a derogatory term; they need someone to talk to.  They get comfortable with their barista like they do with their bartender, and what I wanted to do was not perpetuate their problems by letting them come in repeatedly with the same problems.  So we would talk about their problems and I would suggest going over to read (the wall).  I wanted to provide an uplifting environment for people.  I wanted words to affect them.  And it’s been a blast to watch people go over and say, “That’s so cool,” and then they pull out their phones and their taking pictures and, or they’ll sit down and copy some of the quotes, or they’ll add some, and it’s just, it’s magic, it’s magical.  I [had been] in such a negative environment and it was my coffee shop now, and I got to run it how I wanted to… I wanted them to leave feeling good.
One example of an inspiring note,
especially for seafood lovers.
 Were you ever surprised by your customers’ reactions to the wall? 

Yeah.  Well, people who are not in that place in their life where they want to be happy, it repels them. 

It does. I had a guy come in one day, and he’s like “I’m all for being positive, but this is just a little bit much.”  And after that day, he never came in again. Fine. I don’t want your energy in my shop.  But it’s almost like the universe knows the people that need [it] and sends them here. Hundreds of people have said, “You know, I’ve driven around here thousands of times, but for some reason, today I turned around.  Those are the people I have these profound connections with, and you know, they let me know how special an experience it was to come in.
This is the one Ms. Groves picked out for me.
Ouch...and yay!
You’ve talked openly about how you lost your cousin Krista to cancer not long ago.  You didn’t make it back to see her before she passed, and that had a big impact on you.  Were there any other factors that led to your decision to sell the Coffee Grove and change your life so drastically?

So many things happened when I turned 40. I found my self-worth. I found that I deserve happiness, I deserve love, I deserve a family if I want it, and [I deserve to] cherish the moments that I have with the family that I do have. It woke me up to what my priorities were.  Combined with Krista dying…My dad, my dad is my hero.  I fall in love with my dad more and more every year, he’s that special to me.  That might sound weird, but he’s just…awesome. And I looked at the fact that he would call on Sundays, and I would look down and see him on caller ID, and I was too tired to answer the phone.  What if that was the last time he ever called?  Just like I didn’t go home and talk to Krista, and so I thought, there’s something wrong with me and my life if I’m so disengaged and exhausted that I did not answer the phone when my dad calls to see how I’m doing because he loves me.

Because of all these things, you decided to leave everything behind and take to the road.  Where does the courage come from to do something like this?

Um… it comes from being able to look back on the experiences I have had, the challenges I have overcome.  It’s been the customers. There has not been one single person in my life or in this shop that knows about the trip that doesn’t support me.  To me, that’s all confirmation about I’m on the right path.

And being on the right path, would you say that’s what gives you the courage to do it?

Yeah, and I guess God just kind of gives me what I don’t have.  There are moments throughout every single day when I think this is crazy, but it’s the people who believe in me and that’s why I say they’re my insight.  That’s going to be really hard to leave.

Right.  So how are you going to do without that?

I don’t know yet.  And I guess I realized that I didn’t value people, I didn’t realize the value of people until I realized what I was leaving and how amazing these people are.  I mean, to me they’re not paying customers who walk in the door, they’re family that is buying the product and supporting the business.  They are so much more to me than customers.

It takes a great deal of faith to undertake a project like this, doesn’t it?  How important is faith to you?

It’s the core to my life.  If I don’t have faith, I don’t have… I mean, if I didn’t have faith, I couldn’t do what I’m doing.  It’s … faith is what gives me bravery and courage and strength and belief in myself.  Without it, I’m a zero.  I’m a big zero.

What is faith?  What does it mean to you?  How would you define or describe it to someone who doesn’t know what it is?

Believing in something I can’t see. Believing… believing in the unknown, believing in the impossible.  I mean, that’s what it is.  It’s…I have to have faith that this hoopty is going to get me across the U.S. But, you know what?  There’s been a lot of people that have seen it that have don’t have faith. They’re, you know, “Oh, you’re going to break down here,” and yada, yada, yada.  And it pisses me off.  If you don’t have something nice to say or encouraging about my trip, then please don’t put any negative energy at me, or on me.  Because I need all the courage and the strength and the faith I can have.  Faith is something you can have for days, weeks, years, and it’s something that can be gone in five minutes. 

Replaced by doubt?

Uh-huh.  Doubt and fear.  That’s why I have the quote, “If you don’t have faith, you’ll always have fear.”

Do you consider this trip to be a leap of faith?

It’s very true.  [My camper] is a ’78 Dodge. (laughs)
Painting in the 'living room' of 'Casa de Dodge'
Why do it?  What’s the value in taking a leap of faith for you?

The value to me is the sense of accomplishment, of overcoming fear.  A sense of self-worth, of knowing, you know, what could seem to so many as impossible, and even to me at times … that I did it.  Like when I wanted the coffee shop, I didn’t have two pennies to rub together, but I spoke it into my life.  I wanted it. Period. I was gonna get what I wanted. I found a way to get it.  One of my favorite quotes is, “Never give up on something you can’t go a day without thinking about.”  And the coffee shop was the vehicle to me discovering that my purpose is to lift people up.  I think about doing that all the time.  I [came to work] excited to serve a cup of inspiration and a side of latte.

And the way you plan to lift people up as you travel around is through the message, “If you have a pulse, you have a purpose?”

First and foremost, the quote, what it means.  People are like “Why is this important?” And I think I want to reach people who think that they don’t matter. That think that they don’t have a purpose, that think they’re worthless, because I was that person, and it’s an awful place to be. And when you don’t have hope, finding it and getting it back is one of the hardest things you can do.  It’s lonely, it’s depressing… it’s just a miserable place to be.  But if you can understand that breathing means, that it means something.  When you’re breathing . . .there is a reason for it, and when you have that dream and that passion in your heart, it’s not there to taunt you and tease you, it’s there because it’s your purpose.  Whether you know that it came from God, or a fire hydrant, or a tree, or whatever.  The passion in your heart leads to your purpose.  And my quote for that is, “Follow your heart, it’s where your purpose and your passion live.”

And you feel like your story will resonate with others who are now in a place similar to the one you were in?

Right, and I feel like, especially in this day and age, people can identify with not having a job, and being depressed because of it.  And the way the economy is, people are so, like, ‘Oh, the daily grind,’ and… If they could just not worry anymore.  If they just had that five minutes where they embraced what’s in their heart and, and had that magical feeling inside, “I can do this,” and break away from the day-to-day of not being good to yourself, not listening to your heart.  But everyone’s so worried, and living paycheck to paycheck, and the media, you know, feeds all this negativity and it’s hard to get out of.

It is hard to get out of.  I agree completely.  Aside from telling your story, how do you see yourself helping the people you meet along the way who are feeling hopeless or worthless?

Listening to them, because I see… The quote is going to, people are going to see it driving down the road and I pray to God that people get affected that I never, ever find out about. I did put my email and the facebook page on the back, because I’d love to track, and I’d love to hear from people, but not because I need that to know that I did something. 

Words have power, right?

Yes.  And most of the people who feel like they don’t matter don’t surround themselves with people who tell them that they do.  Or they don’t, they just don’t believe it, they can’t hear it.  They can’t hear it from someone who loves them, because they assume it’s a job, you know, “They’re obligated to love me.”  To hear it from a stranger, with an energy, I think that the energy of your message can be translated and felt by the receiver…And … I feel like I speak with a strong passion about the things I’ve gone through, and nothing gets me more fired up than wanting to shake a person and say, “You have no idea how amazing you are, and how able you are, and I want this dream to happen for you.”  Like I gave this gal a “Dare to Dream” book.  I said, “Everything you want, write it in this book.”  I did this last year.  She came to me the other day and said, “I lost all this money by lending it to a friend, and I wrote in my dream book that I needed to get it back.” And she said that she went to the casino and got it all back.  And I was literally just jumping up and down in here (the coffee shop).  It made me so excited…because I want that for her, because she matters, and she’s still doing it.   I want that for people, because I know how that feels to have it…The quote is a gift that I got, and I can’t keep that gift.  Because of what it did for me, I have to go give it away.

Even if it means leaving your home, your business, getting rid of all your stuff, trading your car for the camper?
Okay, she didn't get rid of all her stuff...Here are the survivors.
I can’t think of anything better to do with my time.  And if I go broke, completely broke, but I affected five people on the trip, it will be totally worth it.  Because I’ll make the money back, but money does not make me feel rich.  You can take my house, my car, my dogs, da, da, da, but you’ll never get what’s here (touching her chest), and that’s why I feel wealthy.   I’m so, I’m literally like… I have very little money… but I’m happier than I’ve ever been.  In my apartment, I have nothing.  But having nothing makes it possible for me to go and do this, you know?  I can walk away, I’m not restricted by a business or things from going and doing this.  And having those things will never give me what this trip and this experience will.  That’s living.  And that’s when Krista died, that’s what I wanted to start doing was living.

What scares you about this trip?

Rear view of the hoopty.  Notice the 'historic vehicle'
license plate.  I know '77 was a good year for movies,
not so sure about hooptys, though...
Fear of me breaking down, of me not getting to New Hampshire… not finishing.  It scares me because so many people have, because they care about me, talked about their concerns about, you know, tires blowing out, this, that, or the other.  Anything can be fixed, but what if something breaks and I don’t have the money to fix it?  That scares me.  But in the end, I have felt favor and protection from God over this whole idea ever since day one.

And it almost becomes like, if something does happen and you do break down, it’s because it was supposed to happen that way and you’re still going to be okay?


So, other than maybe things going wrong, is there anything else that scares you about setting out like this, without a plan?

No.  No. (laughs)  I’m just so excited, and I just, I think it’s going to be one of the best things I’ll ever do in my life. And if there’s trial and adversity, I’ll overcome it.  I may be forced into situations that are really, really uncomfortable, but I have to put my faith where it’s always been.  When I’ve put my faith in God, He’s always taken care of me, so that’s where I’ll put it. 

Do you have any idea approximately how long you will be gone?


Not even a vague notion of how many… Weeks? Months?

Probably at the most two months on the road.  I kind of have an end, or goal, and there’s a lot more to that story.  My dream is to end up in New Hampshire, in a quaint little town. Like I have a visual of a great little cabin and I’m sitting in front of a wood burning stove, and I’m writing full time, and I’m writing books that inspire people, and I am becoming a best-selling author.  That’s my dream.

You weren’t always this positive and optimistic about life.  What caused your perspective on life to change? 

I think, I think actually it’s from when I was married.  I was so miserable in my marriage.   I was seeking and desperate for happiness, and I was with such a negative man.  He was full of hate, and unforgiveness, and resentment, and bitterness and rage, and I had read a book called The Tender Commandments, and there was a chapter in there that talked about when you hate, you’re committing murder in your heart.  When you don’t forgive, that’s . . . unforgiveness is terrible.  And, so, I don’t know, I think that that was the point. And then I left Kansas, and came out here, and I think I was just getting exposed to new things, and somehow I found (the book) The Secret, and that really opened my eyes to how you turn your life into something better than it is, and learning, you know…I guess deep down I’ve always known that you can create, that you create your own destiny, but reading The Secret made me want to read more.  It made me want to learn more.  It made me want to figure out how to be a better person.

Did you have any specific moments of insight that helped change the way you look at life?

When I wrote my book, when I wrote chapter 6 in my book. The book is called, The Coffee Grove Saved My Life:  How I Got Inspired and Found Self-Worth at the Grove.  Every chapter of the book is about a quote from the wall.  And then the content of the chapter is something that happened in my life that ties into that quote, and how I came through that trial.  So, I’m going to start writing chapter 6, and all of a sudden, it’s not about a quote. I’m writing a letter to myself, and it’s God, telling me what to write.  It was literally God saying, “I love this, this, this, this and this about you, but what I don’t love is that you don’t love what I made, because I didn’t make a mistake with you.  And until you love what I made, I cannot bless you with everything I want to give you.”  And, when I went back and read that, I was like, “Oh my God, I’m insulting God.  This is in the way of my life getting better.”  And right there, I was like, I deserve an amazing life, and I need to embrace these things that God gave me.  And I need to learn how to say thank you.  I need to learn how to receive the compliments from people telling me that I’m inspiring, that that’s a good thing.  And, um, yeah, that was huge.

Ultimately, do you think it’s enough for people to simply know that they have a purpose in life, or do they need to know what that purpose is? 

They need to know what the purpose is.

Yeah.  Maybe it’s enough in the beginning to know, if you just know that you have a purpose, that you’re here for a reason, but don’t you think that ultimately you need to know what that purpose is to feel fulfilled?

Absolutely.  Absolutely.  Because that’s when you’re really living. 


You’re, you’re following your heart, your dream.  Is it enough for you?  To know that you have a purpose?

No.  No.  But the quote, “If you have a pulse, you have a purpose,” I just wanted to get clear about whether, about where you drew that line.  Is knowing you have a purpose enough, or do you need to …

It was enough to get me through each day.  That God didn’t take me every night when I was praying for him to take me in the middle of the night.  It got me through each day. But that’s why I read The Purpose Driven Life. I needed to know more. I needed to know that I mattered and, I think I have high standards for myself, I couldn’t…I needed to do something, something extraordinary.  And I, you know, shortly after I decided to do this trip, I read something somewhere – I was in my apartment – but it said, “God uses ordinary people who are obedient to do extraordinary things.” And I thought, I’m an ordinary…this kind of fits me.  It was His idea, and I just said, “Okay.” 

But it’s the saying okay that makes it possible…

Right. I think that also knowing, and finding, your purpose is tied into self-worth.  Because, if you don’t believe that you’re worth a good life, or worth doing amazing things, or that you believe you can’t do it… you’re not going to go looking for your purpose.  You’re not going to go looking to follow your passion, because you don’t believe you’re worth it.  And that’s, that’s sad too.

So…it all goes hand in hand. 

Right now, do you feel like you know what your purpose in life is?

Today, right now, I know what my purpose is, for the moment.  What my purpose is now is to take the person that I was created, the gifts that I was given, and embrace them and acknowledge that God made me this way and be thankful for it.  And again, I say that not in a religious manner.  God’s just my best friend.  I don’t go sit in church. I don’t think that I need to be sitting in a pew to have an amazing relationship with God.  But it’s also my business, and I don’t tell anybody else how to feel.  I just hope that the blessings that I’ve gotten from Him, that sharing that could make someone turn to Him. So, um…

And that’s your purpose.  I mean, that kind of sums it up, doesn’t it?

Yeah.  And … I’m not taking this message on the road to preach the Gospel, because if I want to push people away, I’m going to go preach the Gospel.  If I want to draw people in, I’m going to speak to them on a level that they understand. And if I feel that energy…I pick and choose my audience about who I share that with, but I, I can discern who that is.  Angry, bitter people, they’re not going to receive that.   

So how does that feeling you have right now, knowing that you have a good sense of what your purpose is and why you’re doing it, how does that feeling contrast with the feeling you had when you were unemployed for five months, and in the depths of despair?

That’s the beauty of the journey I’ve been on, and everything I’ve learned, and what I’ve gone and sought for answers about life and purpose and there’s no way to explain the amazingness of my life now versus what it was.  I don’t regret a minute of what I went through, because now I have a testimony.  You can’t have a testimony until you’ve had a test.  That’s a religious saying.  But I have a story to share with other people that can inspire them.  So there was a purpose to all of that pain.  Pain has a purpose.  We’re supposed to learn, we’re supposed to grow.  The teacher’s always quietest during the test.  Have you ever heard that saying before?

I’ve never heard that, but it’s so true. (laughing)

So, it’s like a feeling, like I wish…if I could bottle up how it feels and sell it, I’d be a gazillionaire.  ‘Cause it’s euphoric. It’s absolutely euphoric.  And I want people that I love, and I want other people that I don’t know to feel it, ‘cause you just can’t describe it until you’ve experienced it.  What’s hard for me, is that I love it so much up here, that when I’m back down here, I start to panic, thinking, “What did I do?  What am I doing wrong?  Am I sinning? Am I thinking bad thoughts?  Am I on the wrong path?  Am I having karma moments? You know, that’s when I panic, because I want to go back up here.  It’s a great place to live. 

And that’s a great place to end this interview.  Thank you so much for your time.  It’s been a pleasure meeting you, and good luck in your travels.

Postscript:  I asked Ms. Groves to provide me with a list of books she found inspirational.  In addition to those already listed in the interview (The Secret, The Purpose Driven Life), she offered the following:

§         The Magic, by Rhonda Byrne
§         Your Hearts Desire, by Sonia Choquette
§         The Power of Intention, by Dr. Wayne W. Dyer
§         Oh, The Places You’ll Go! by Dr. Seuss

Since I love movies, I also asked for a list of films she found inspiring as well (in addition to the aforementioned Soul Surfer):

§         The Ultimate Gift (2006)
§         Simon Birch (1998)
§         The Notebook (2004)

I’m currently looking for more inspiring people to interview.  If you know someone who is incredibly passionate about what they do (and I don’t care what it is that they do), or someone who’s taken a leap of faith and would be interested in talking about it, please let me know, or send them to thunderstrokes.  I’d love to hear their stories.  

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