Thursday, October 23, 2008

Coffee Sweetener

I was writing at a Starbucks store on a busy street corner, when my concentration was constantly interrupted by a loud voice. Strong East Coast accent, nasal, quick manner of speech, non-stop chatter, barely time for breathing. It was the kind of voice that gets under my skin when it comes from my wife’s wizened relatives.

It was the lady operating the cash register. Fifties, heavy-set, she never stopped talking. She knew everyone. If she didn’t, she soon did. She spent her time leaning on the counter making connected conversation with every single customer who came through the door. Some were clearly regulars. But among those who were not, business folks, moms, urban youth, no matter who, they invariably left with a dose of the barista’s sweet smile, folksy wisdom, and genuinely kind wishes for a wonderful day.

Here was one restaurant employee who was genuinely thrilled to see and hear from every single customer. They heard her stories, they engaged in her questions, they responded to her smile. With the greatest ease, she heard the issues of her customers’ days and they shared their news. Mid-conversation, she warmly greeted each new person in line and sent them off with a verbal hug along with their double espressos and caramel Macchiatos.

Like me, you’ve probably been in coffee shops where the energy impatiently pulses with the pressure to create and procure caffeine concoctions in great haste. At the corner of Alameda Avenue and Colorado Boulevard in Denver on a sunny Saturday in July, I met a wonderful lady who found immense joy in being the embodiment of happiness and warmth.

I was reminded of lessons I have learned that we create our lives by the choices we make, in our thoughts, in our words, in our judgments of ourselves and others. Change the way you look at things and the things you look at change. Choose positive thoughts, keep your attention on your intentions, and you will manifest goodness and joy for yourself.

On this particular Saturday, I had left the house under a storm of disagreement with my wife over something not desperately important. It doesn’t happen often, but when it does, I seem to forget that I can choose how I see things and I tend to view my life through clouded lenses. What a crabby old world! On days like that, it can be hard to remember the positives.

And then into my life, for one brief hour, came the lady from Starbucks. I think I heard her say she was leaving the store soon, possibly moving out of town.

Wherever you are, whatever you are up to, thank you for making my day. Thank you for your generosity of spirit and your infectious good will towards mankind. Thank you for helping me get back on track. Thank you for living in a space I aspire to occupy more often.

My daily java is supposed to give a jolt to my nervous system. In the coffee shop that day, I received a wonderful gift, a free ride further along the road to creating the world I want.

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