I used to work at Starbucks. Pretty decent job other than the fairly regular obnoxious customers who think the world of themselves. Regardless, I get paid, so it’s alright.
So one day this old lady comes in. I’ve never seen her before, but she seems a little down in the dumps. This is not my typical “I’ll be paying with my daddy’s credit card” customer, so I’m a little more inclined to see what’s going on. I ask her how her day is going, and she tells me she’s fine. She orders a cup of coffee. I can tell she most definitely is not okay- something’s definitely off. I quietly ask her if she’s sure she’s doing alright. She looks up at me from her purse with tears in her eyes and, voice quivering, says, “No, son, I’m not. My husband is dying and I’m trying to learn how to live without him.”
I come to learn her husband did everything for her- he kept up the house, he pumped the gas. He was prince charming, and now he was dying. My heart just broke right there. I poured her a cup of coffee and handed it to her. She went to reach into her wallet, but I told her it was on the house. This woman looked at me and burst into tears. The store is virtually empty at this point, so we have some more time with her. My manager gives her a hug and the woman tells me it was the sweetest thing anyone has ever done for her. It wasn’t any big deal. I just gave her a cup of coffee. It cost me nothing, I just didn’t charge it. But the story doesn’t end there.
Later that afternoon I get a call from the afternoon shift manager. She just got a phone call from a 20-something year old girl who asked about me. She said that her grandma (the woman I had served that morning) had come and told her (granddaughter) about our exchange. This girl was singing our praises big time, saying we changed this lady’s entire perspective on the situation. I was absolutely floored and got a little choked up.
But we’re still not done.
Three weeks later, I’m working a Sunday morning. It’s right between two rushes and this giant group comes in. Big groups are always a pain to serve, but I put a smile on and get ready to take care of everyone. An older lady comes up to me and grabs my hand. She asks me if I remember who she is- it’s the lady from three weeks before. I ask her about her husband and she responds,
“Well, that’s what I’m here about, son. I have two things to share with you this morning. First, I want you to know that my husband passed away. His funeral was yesterday and the whole family came into town for the service. The second thing I want to share with you is this- I want you to know that I shared the story of what you did for me with that cup of coffee. You may not know this, but that cup of coffee gave me an entirely new perspective on my husband’s life. I wanted to thank you for that. Son, I want to introduce you to my family. They have something they want to say to you.”
She turns around and gestures to the group. One by one, they come up to me and shake my hand and thank me for what I’ve done. At this point everyone is teary eyed. It was the strangest thing. A cup of coffee changed everything, and, in the process, allowed me to celebrate the life of a stranger I never knew with his loved ones.
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