Filling Cups

My husband texted me this afternoon to ask if I wanted to meet him at my Starbucks for a refreshing beverage. Since I had already been to Starbucks a couple of hours earlier, I hesitated but ultimately agreed. A few minutes later, we were sipping our drinks at the bar counter, where I could stand instead of sitting. This is where I work, so I frequently watch what is happening behind the counter, wanting to stay connected and involved even if I’m currently not working, and so, I picked up on some concern towards a regular customer who was sitting outside with friends. I am not usually the sort of person who makes a point of injecting myself into other people’s conversations, but I did this afternoon and I’m glad I did.

Her eyes lit up when she saw me, and she quickly stood to greet me with a hug that she was reluctant to end as she told me that her husband had passed away last night. This sweet couple have been regular customers for as long as I’ve been working there. Alf was always the quiet one, but there was a sparkle in his eyes as if he had been up to some sort of mischief. There had been health concerns for a while, so his passing shouldn’t be a surprise, and yet, there was also the sense that we would present him with his mug of green tea for a long time to come.

It’s not always easy or comfortable to interact with someone who has experienced such a loss, especially so recently, and such situations make me feel incredibly inadequate and awkward; however, I am thankful that I had the opportunity to see Corrine today, to share a bit of her grief, and to simply be a friendly face to hold onto. In her typical sweetness, she introduced me to her good friends and also asked about my own health and potential surgery (the last time I talked with her I was still waiting to see a surgeon). I listened to her share some stories of Alf, some recent and some not. There was laughter in her voice but also grief and loss and sadness. And strength.

I love my job. Mostly I caffeinate people, but I love that I also have the opportunity to nurture and inspire the human spirit, to fill the figurative cup of the people I serve. Of course, not every customer is going to want anything more than their cup of coffee, but we do our job with the knowledge that we have the potential to be something more. It is about connection, and that is one of the reasons why I started working at Starbucks. When you connect with people, even with a coffee counter in the middle, you get excited when a student passes that exam they’d been studying for. You know when someone’s been on vacation or when they’ve been sick. You encourage the teachers as the school year draws to a close. You welcome the snowbirds back in the spring. You listen to stories and share your own. You cry with them when they’ve received bad news. And you grieve when loss happens.

You don’t need to be a barista to experience this connection. People are everywhere, and I don’t know a single person who has their life all together and without struggle, pain or loss. As an introvert, I like my time to myself…I like it a lot; and yet, people need people. People need people who care enough to ask how they’re doing, to simply say hello, to lend a hand or even just a smile. Think about that.

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Choosing Hope

“May your choices reflect your hopes, not your fears.” ~Nelson Mandela

About this time last year I was in the midst of an unexpected choice to leave the job I had held for 12 years. I hadn’t sought out this opportunity, but I couldn’t help but feel optimism and hope when the possibility was dangled in front of me. Such a decision could not be made lightly, no matter how sweet. As frustrated as I was in my job, there was still fear in leaving and losing all that was familiar and comfortable in my position there. I could have allowed that fear to paralyze me. I could have simply remained where I was, feeling stuck and frustrated, but I chose differently.

Although my official 1 year anniversary at my current job isn’t until September 1st, today is the anniversary of two out of three interviews. I remember the nervousness I felt going into each interview and the growing excitement I felt over the very real possibility of making a career change. There was a measure of anxiety and sadness mixed with the excitement knowing that I might need to give notice and disappoint my co-workers. Still, the hope and excitement outweighed the potential negatives, and I have never looked back.

I am definitely more comfortable in my “new” job after 11 months, but I am very much aware that there is still, and always, more to learn! Sometimes I feel frustrated that I don’t know everything by now…until I remember that I had 12 years to learn and grow comfortable in my previous job. It isn’t often that I walk into my old stomping grounds, but when I do I am quickly reminded of all of the reasons why leaving was so desirable and easy. I know that I made the right choice at the right time. Is my new job perfect? Of course not! However, I am happy to be where I am now, and I am proud of myself for stepping outside of my comfort zone and fear to make a choice based on hope.