Coffee Shop Kindness

Posted on June 5, 2007. Filed under: Stories | Tags: |

My senior year of high school was an extremely hectic one, to say the least. If I wasn’t studying and worrying about my grades, I was juggling multiple extracurricular activities or attempting to make sense of my plans for college. It seemed as if my life had turned into one crazy cloud of confusion and I was stumbling around blindly, hoping to find some sort of direction.

Finally, as senior year began to wind down, I got a part-time job working at the local coffee shop. I had figured that the job would be easy and, for the most part, stress-free. I pictured myself pouring the best gourmet coffees, making delicious doughnuts, and becoming close friends with the regular customers.

What I hadn’t counted on were the people with enormous orders who chose to use the drive-thru window, or the women who felt that the coffee was much too creamy, or the men who wanted their iced coffees remade again and again until they reached a certain level of perfection. There were moments when I was exasperated with the human race as a whole, simply because I couldn’t seem to please anyone. There was always too much sugar, too little ice, and not enough skim milk. Nevertheless, I kept at it.

One miserable rainy day, one of my regular customers came in looking depressed and defeated. My co-worker and I asked what the problem was and if we could help, but the customer wouldn’t reveal any details. He just said he felt like crawling into bed, pulling the sheets up over his head, and staying there for a few years. I knew exactly how he felt.

Before he left, I handed him a bag along with his iced coffee. He looked at me questioningly because he hadn’t ordered anything but the coffee. He opened the bag and saw that I had given him his favorite type of doughnut.

“It’s on me,” I told him. “Have a nice day.”

He smiled and thanked me before turning around and heading back out into the rain.

The next day was a horrible one. The rain was still spilling down from the sky in huge buckets and everyone in my town seemed to be using the drive-thru window because no one wanted to brave the black skies or the thunder and lightning.

I spent my afternoon hanging out the window, handing people their orders and waiting as they slowly counted their pennies. I tried to smile as the customers complained about the weather, but it was difficult to smile as they sat in their temperature-controlled cars with the windows rolled up, while I dealt with huge droplets of water hanging from my visor, a shirt that was thoroughly soaked around the collar, and an air conditioner that blasted out cold air despite the fact that it was only sixty-seven degrees outside. On top of that, no one felt like tipping that day. Every time I looked into our tip jar, with its small amount of pennies, I grew more depressed.

Around seven o’clock that evening, however, my day took a turn for the better. I was in the middle of making another pot of vanilla hazelnut decaf when the customer from the day before drove up to the window. But instead of ordering anything, he handed me a single pink rose and a little note. He said that not too many people take the time to care about others and he was glad there were still people like me in the world. I was speechless and very touched; I hadn’t thought that I had done anything incredible. After a moment, I came to my senses and thanked him. He told me I was welcome and with a friendly wave he drove away.

I waited until I saw his Jeep exit the parking lot, then I ran to the back of the shop and read the note. It read:

Christine,

Thanks for being so sweet, kind and thoughtful yesterday. I was sincerely touched by you. It is so nice to meet someone that’s genuinely nice, warm and sensitive and unselfish. Please don’t change your ways because I truly believe that you will excel. Have a great day! Hank

As time went on, I did come across more complaining customers. But anytime I felt depressed or just plain sick of coffee, I thought of Hank and his kindness. Then I would smile, hold my head up high, clear my throat and ask politely, “How can I help you?”

By Christine Walsh
from Chicken Soup for the Teenage Soul III

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