serving up more than just coffee

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I’ve been at this job for 6 years.

It doesn’t seem like much…pouring coffee, making latte’s and finding the perfect pastry for someone.

and I have to admit its taken months for me to find my place…and find contentment.

and yet in the midst of all the coffee shop regularity, there are moments that I treasure as being given to me as gifts. perhaps they are small, wrapped in brown-paper, every-day-words…but to me they shine bright, they speak truth, they given me a glimpse into glory.

making conversation with people isn’t something I struggle with too much (unless they are on their cell phones or clearly just want to run away with their coffee), so depending on the person I throw out a question. If its a customer I know, then I ask them something specific that we’ve spoken of before; if its someone new I will try to just make small talk. However, beware of the question ‘How are you today?’ or “How is your day going?” cause sometimes the info you get back is more then you’ll want to deal with. For some reason, sitting in a drive-thru line, chatting with a barista tends to get people sharing all kinds of things.

and while its just a short interaction…hopefully less then 3-5 minutes, its amazing the truth that can be gleaned.

There is one beautiful woman that comes through, gets honey and a bit of milk in her coffee, who is an artist. She is also a woman who loves the Lord, and only through snippets of conversation have I come to know that about her. and that some days she also struggles with depression. some days its the moment of interaction between us that really brightens up both of our days. For Christmas I received a box of chocolates from her that said ‘You don’t know what a difference you are making in people’s lives’…and I’m so thankful that she sees that, because that is God in me, definitely NOT all of me.

There is another wonderful lady who gets a huge chai latte and brings her daughter and her mom through the drive-thru. Her mom’s name (as I know it) is ‘Ya-ya’ which is the Greek form of grandmother. I’ve been blessed to be allowed to call her that, and every time she sees me she gives me a big smile and waves. While this lady loves to have small conversations with me…her four year old daughter for some reason things I’ve just the greatest thing, and if she hears my voice in the speaker or see’s my car in the parking lot she begins to screech my name 😉 Sometimes on the hard days when its all I can do to not count the moments till my next break or wonder when i’ll get another happy customer, hearing her say my name with such joy really lifts my heart. Its always so nice to run into this ‘regular’ because I know that they’ll usually say something that lifts my spirits or share something that they are going through…and its such an honour to be trusted with that information, and considered as more then just a coffee maker.

we give out random receipts (the computer selects them) to some customers to fill out a short survey and then come back for a free coffee of their choice. While many of the regulars in the drive-thru know my name, I write my name on top just so they can remember. And there has been twice when I’ve been mentioned in this customer feedback that has blessed me so much. The one lady works in the Hospitality services department of the local college nearby teaching Hotel Management courses and she says that she uses ME as an example of stellar customer service and an uplifting presence. This blew my mind, because some days I’m not consciously thinking about how I can make someone’s day I’m just trying to genuinely share a bit of joy with them…if only in a real smile, that often can go a long way…sometimes even translating to the beginning of a smile on their own harried faces.

Another lady told me last week that she’s always glad to see me in the window because no matter what kind of day she’s having just seeing my smile and hearing my upbeat order taking makes her day a little brighter. And I think…this is what i’m here for. This is why God’s placed me here.

I remember back when I was helping out as a Junior High leader and one of the guys who had been in Youth group with me years earlier had come back from his time at YWAM and shared some of what God had been doing in his life. I had known of some of the ups and downs that had been present in this young man’s life and it just overwhelmed my heart that I should go and speak to him of the chance I could see that the Lord had wrought in Him. After speaking to him (and i have no recollection of the words) he gave me the best compliment ever, ‘Janel…has anyone ever told you, you have a Barnabus spirit..so encouraging and uplifting.’ and I have carried that thought in my heart for many years.

Living with depression, it is difficult to be excited about life sometimes. Not that i’m not happy to be alive, I just feel impartial. But when i’m working I come alive, i truly do love and care for these customers and its my blessing to be able to share a bit of joy with them and in turn have them share some life moments with me. It has taken quite some time to get to this place…but I am thankful that the Lord continues to use this desire I have to encourage others for His glory. its a different context that I imagined when young, and I hope to not be serving coffee for forever…but for now, i strive to find contentment in the means He’s given me to speak truth and love into the hearts and lives of others. I am blessed.

writing with Emily at Imperfect Prose today|:

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4 thoughts on “serving up more than just coffee

  1. This is just lovely. This really speaks volumes that even in a not ideal situation (as you said, you don’t want to be serving coffee forever, and I’ve worked in food service before and it can be… trying) if you can hold onto the good moments–those nice little things–it really does make all of the difference. I’m trying to remind myself of that. ❤

    • it is hard to hold on to the good moments…its been a LONG road to get where I am, and i’m sure that there are days that i’m not so impressed to be where i’ve been planted, but i’m learning…every day is a step closer. You can do it!

  2. Oh Janel,
    I can totally see your face beaming back at me across the counter as you hand me my grande Americano with an extra shot and room for cream. And I know that your smile would spread wide, pulling up at the corners and making your eyes crinkle a bit at the sides. And in your eyes would be a thousand blessings and well wishes and grace and it would all ooze down deep as I sipped on love in the form of hot coffee.
    What you are doing matters in so many ways. And I don’t care if you pour coffee or lay sewer lines or broker high dollar bank loans…I know that you give from the center of who you are.
    And who you are is beautiful.

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