My dear Starbucks regulars:
I've been thinking about you for days, knowing that my last day is fast approaching. I've allowed myself a trip down memory lane, listing how many of you and your drinks I could remember from the eight and a half years I've been asking, "What can I get started for you?"
There are over 150 of you. Oh my, how I have been blessed.
How can I put into words what I have learned from you and come to treasure about you? How can I help you understand how you've, literally, changed my life? Give me a few minutes to try to explain.
Jeff, it all began with you. That early summer morning when I asked how you were and you answered, "Fine." But then I turned around and you decided to trust me with the new and terrible news you'd only learned the night before of Julie's breast cancer. How honored I was--and equally shocked, honestly--that you would share your burden with me, the person who made your coffee each day. I'll never know why you did that, but I'm forever different because of that exchange.
What happened inside of me that day? I understood that what we did each day--my asking, "How are you doing?" and "What can I get started for you?" and "What's your name?"--was something that had the power to transform a transaction into an interaction. A connection became a conversation, and each time we shared a little bit more. The words empowered me to see you and be seen by you, to know you and be known by you. The difference it made when I remembered your name, your drink, that comment you made the last time you were in motivated me to make sure I was a good steward of the glimpses into your lives that you were giving me.
I never treated another transaction the same again, whether I was behind the line or the customer myself. You changed me for the better. Thank you so much.
So many of you saw me, called me by name, and made small talk each day. Over time, we became acquainted, and I came to care about you, more than I expected to. Joe, you always had a joke for me. Rod and Dan, you tipped for your plain old cups of coffee every.single.day and apologized when you didn't have cash on you to put in the tip jar. It wasn't the tipping that was important. It was just one way you acknowledged thankfulness for a service you valued. It was so appreciated.
For some of you, it was all you could do to place your order and give me your name. Every day you honored me by making eye contact. Thank you, Werner and Wolfgang and Prem, and many others like them. You helped me understand better how to create a safe space for you to be who you are. I hope you felt accepted and not accosted by this overly extroverted, naturally caffeinated barista!
Please understand this: you're not just names and drinks to me. You're the people I've looked forward to seeing every shift and wondered where you went when you didn't walk through that door. For those who left thinking that no one would miss you when you slipped away, know that I did, and I hope you're well.
Thank you for introducing me to your kids--Lacey, Leah, Hannah and Ben, Sierra, Mason and Lexi, Tate--and your wives, for telling me about your vacation plans and upcoming special occasions. I loved every little thing you told me about yourselves--how you tried out for the Cumming Playhouse musical, Joe, and how you were producing a play downtown, Mary, and how you were thinking about asking someone out, Taylor, and how you were caring for your ailing parents, Jane, Gordon and Kathy, and David and Snoanne. I loved hearing about your experiences, large and small, special and ordinary.
You may find this hard to believe, but I carried many of your stories home with me. The things you said stayed with me, and I prayed for you, Jeff, to get a new job; for you, Shelly, to find comfort after your dad died; and for you, Chris, to find relief from your insomnia.
Thank you for allowing me to shoulder your concerns. Carolyn, you were the second person after Jeff to offer me a glimpse into your pain. Little did I know that my usual, "How are you doing today?" would make you feel safe to share about that first dose of morphine you'd given your mother minutes before you walked through the cafe doors. You taught me that you never know what someone else is going through, so I need to be kind. Thank you, Lisa, for trusting me with your fear about a scan that turned out to be nothing. Thank you, Katelyn, for letting me hug you after I saw your unshed tears and you told me your best friend had died. I'm glad you knew on some level that you would find caring people when you came in for your drink. Thank you, Dr. Larry, for coming by for a bolstering cup of dark coffee before you headed down to the VA for your appointments. Thank you, Cheryl and Carolyn and Arjun and Angelo, for embracing this Third Place as somewhere to be known and becoming a community of friends who watch out for each other.
All this? This is why Starbucks has been so much more than coffee for me.
Thank you to my first manager, Clay Bartley, for taking a chance on someone who asked if she had to like coffee in order to work there. Thank you, Kimmy Yee Poisson, for taking your job so seriously, for doing it so well, and for caring so genuinely, so deeply about your people. I'm thankful to have been one of them. Thank you, Michelle, for understanding me. Thank you, Zoe, for doing what you were good at and not pretending to be someone you weren't. Finally, thank you, Lawson, for not letting me quit when I wanted to.
To all the partners I've worked with at the Bethelview, Ronald Reagan, and Bethany Bend stores, thank you for giving your best, making it so much fun, and helping me not take myself so seriously. We're in the people business selling coffee. Don't ever forget. I've been the one left behind many times as you have moved on, and I've rejoiced with you as you've embarked on new adventures. I know you're doing the same for me.
It really is time to go.
Here's what's next. Twenty-seven years ago, I earned a degree in communications and worked in my field. After dedicating myself to motherhood for almost 22 years, I've become an empty nester. I've decided to start writing again, beginning with this blog that I launched last September. (Feel free to read the archives!)
I've embraced that I am a writer. I'll be working as a freelance writer and editor, and collaborating in the wee hours with a dear friend on a project that may become a book or an app. Whenever you're curious about what's happening with me, know that you can come here to read about it. I'd love to know what's going on with you too, so please leave comments! Maybe we could meet for coffee--seriously!
It has been my genuine joy to help you start your day with a smile and some caffeine. Thank you for making it so much more than a job.