Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Kindness in a Coffee Shop


I love Starbucks.

Oh, I realize some of you out there are mourning the loss of The Coffee Beanery and Caribou. Royal Oak is definitely short a coffee shop these days. I am sorry about that since they have been hubs of activity. I too miss Caribou’s amazing Hot Chocolate options and the Coffee Beanery’s Cinnamon Holiday Blend -- a traditional purchase by my mom every December. But there is a magic inside Starbucks. 

I suppose part of the appeal is the aroma of the beans grinding and the specialty coffees. The sounds and energy bustling around that place. The varied personalities working, meeting, reading a newspaper, talking, laughing and making business decisions as they sit together at tables or in the cozy chairs by the fire. So much seems to happen in coffee shops. Today, though, I found something that I wasn't expecting.

My absolute favorite drink in the world is Starbucks' Peppermint Mocha. I try to hold off until December 1st to treat myself to this high-caloric delicacy. But today’s crisp air and wintery sky served as a catalyst and I found myself donning hat, gloves and my new winter white Olivia Pope wool coat and walking to Starbucks.

Walking in the door, I felt myself heave a great sigh as I took in the energy of Starbucks' highly energized world. Wonder of wonders, there was no line. Must have been a sign from the Coffee Gods that this was where I was meant to be at that exact moment in time.

I glanced up at the vast menu, knowing what I truly wanted, and allowed myself to make the request.

“A Venti Peppermint Mocha, please.” (No wimpy Tall or Grande for me today. Nope. I needed the full rapture only available from a Venti.)

The Barista taking my order smiled. It surprised me. I needed that smile. It was a friendly smile and I did a meditative action at that moment. I breathed it in. I absorbed the positive energy like it was a living spirit. And founding myself smiling back. It was as though his smile bestowed upon me a gentle touch. Welcoming. Encouraging.

Then he asked my name. They ask that these days and write it on your cup. I told him. Whenever I tell someone my name, they assume it ends in a Y. It’s not a big thing. It’s just going on a paper cup that I’ll throw away eventually anyway. People misspell my name all the time and I don't stress it. But … he didn’t stop there. He asked … “with a Y or IE?”

I was surprised. And I smiled again. “With an I,” I told him. "Thank you for asking."

He grinned and laughed, explaining that he wanted to get it right. By his action, he honored my uniqueness -- by simply noting my name, correctly spelled, with black sharpie on the red Starbucks holiday cup. Then he took my pre-paid Starbucks Card (something I am never without), rang up the astronomical cost for a Venti specialty coffee which by now was even more worth it, and smiled again.

I moved to the waiting area. Others came in from the cold. Some smiling ... some struggling with things I know nothing about. I found myself smiling at them. Sometimes people seem surprised when I smile at them -- like I did -- and then they brighten. We made casual chat as I waited for my coffee. A gentleman in a suit walked by me on his way out and complimented me on my coat. I smiled and thanked him, feeling stylish and happy that someone took the time not only to notice but to speak kind words. He smiled back and exited into the cold. Our encounter had ended.

The Barista called my name and with great awe I collected my very first Peppermint Mocha of the season.  I stepped back into the cold with lightness in my step. A little more ease between my shoulders. A gratitude that I found kindness today from strangers in a coffee shop. And that their simple generosity gave me something of great value. Something I guess I needed as much as I needed that Venti cup of coffee.

People need gentleness and kindness. Validation and appreciation. Genuine Friendship. The human touch. A smile. It grounds us and steadies us and keeps us strong. Moving forward. No matter what else happens today, the smile from the Barista and the words from a stranger will remind me that you can find and give Kindness anywhere.

When I smile at you, perhaps you will see the bright pink energy … my aura.  There are days its dimmer than others but I seek to keep it pulsing with light. Perhaps you will breathe it in. Receive the energy I offer willingly. Sometimes I run out, ya know. So, when you share your kindness with me, it sustains and strengthens. It brightens my light.

What is it Blanche DuBois said in Streetcar Named Desire? ….  “I’ve always depended on the Kindness of strangers.”

I am grateful that I can find Kindness in simple places like a Coffee Shop. From strangers. Sometimes it’s easier to get it from someone you don’t know. And to accept it. We like to project confidence. But there are moments... This morning at Starbucks as I glanced at rushed, harried faces, I realized the toll day-to-day living takes.  I observed and recognized that our spirits are fragile -- especially as the holidays loom ahead with their pressure, lists, demands and emotional implications. Our pace and the shifts and changes in our daily existence challenge us, leaving us ragged at times. So much benefit can come from the simplicity of a smile.

When I went to Starbucks this morning, I didn’t know I would gain so much.

Dear Starbucks ... Thank you for the Coffee. And thank you for the Kindness. I'll see you soon.

                                                                                                                                -- Jenni