I am not exactly sure how or when it started, but sometime, in the past year or so, I became a regular at the Starbucks that is tucked inside the Target store within walking distance from our home. I am not there every day, but I definitely am there several times each week. I used to order hot green tea or iced tea, but that’s changed, since I discovered the magical elixir known as iced coffee.
I add a vanilla protein drink to black, unsweetened iced coffee for either breakfast or lunch on-the-go or a midafternoon pick-me-up. So, I will stop in either after a morning workout or walk up during the afternoon. As much as I love the aroma and taste of the iced coffee and the boost of caffeine, that’s not the only reason that I make me way there regularly.
The tea and the iced coffee may have been what lured me in, but what, or rather who, kept me coming back was so much more. During my visits, I began to get to know four of the baristas, and what began as a simple business transaction became a valued personal connection.
As our pleasantries turned into more meaningful conversations, they became the primary reason that I continued my weekly pilgrimages. In addition to providing excellent customer service, they provide me with smiles, laughs, and, sometimes, the only in-person human interaction that I may have that day. If I am having a good day, they add to it. If I am having a difficult day, they salvage it with their kindness. They have served me up plenty of iced coffee and some great lessons:
- A kind word and a warm smile can make a difference. No matter how busy they are, each of these baristas always takes the time to smile and to say something kind. These seemingly small gestures can be game changers. Kindness is contagious, and when we are the recipients, it not only makes us feel good, it also motivates us to extend it to others. It’s a ripple effect, and it’s something that we’re all capable of doing. We just need to look for, and take advantage of, the opportunities to do so. I leave with a pep in my step that has more to do with them than the caffeine!
- Human connections are vital. Whether it’s the lingering impact of Covid, working from home, the utilization of modern technology to communicate, or other factors, as a society, we are more isolated from each other and lonelier than ever. We have forgotten the importance of being in the presence of others and being fully present when are together in person. When we put down our phones and get out into our communities, there are countless ways to connect with the people around us. Even brief encounters can be meaningful and remind us that we are not alone.
We may even be surprised at what we have in common with people we meet or wheat we learn about them when we take the time to engage with one another. I discovered that one of the baristas and I share the same birthday, and another barista and I share a love of Mumford and Sons. I also have great compassion for the barista who lost her husband earlier this year, and I am so proud of the baristas who are going to college while working.
- When someone is behaving rudely, we do not need to respond in kind. I have witnessed these baristas deal with some pretty rude customers, at times, and I have never once seen them lose their cool or respond in a negative manner. They remain professional and polite, and their grace under pressure de-escalates or, at least, neutralizes, it. We cannot control how other people act, but we can control how we respond. When we don’t match someone’s negative energy or behavior, we protect our own emotional well-being.
- Showing someone your appreciation is one of the greatest gifts. Recently, they served me more than my usual drink. They surprised me with the gift bag that is pictured at the top of this post. Trust and believe, I will definitely put those cups to good use for a long time, but their note is what I will cherish the most. To know that that they feel like I make their day better as much as they do mine was such a sweet, unexpected gift.
Every time we interact with another person, we have the opportunity to make their day even just a little bit better and brighter, and that is a gift we can offer to one another all year round. To these four very special people, I appreciate you more than you know and think the world of each of you, and I raise both of my cups to all of you. Cheers!
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