Thursday, February 27, 2014

Small Things at Starbucks

Sometimes small things make a difference.

I wasn't feeling too good at work this morning. I woke up thinking it was going to be a tough day. I had received a request last night to see a patient this morning, and I knew it was going to be hard. Some patient encounters just are, and you do them anyway because the patient needs help, but I knew it was going to make me really sad. And I was right, it did. I felt very, very sad after seeing this person.

I wandered over to Starbucks later in the morning. I usually try to stay away from the Starbucks kiosk at work because it's expensive and it's not good for me. This morning, though, I wanted a treat. I was sad and my heart felt heavy and I wanted something warm, even if it was just a fancy coffee. Surprisingly enough, there was no line when I got there. This is quite unusual. Usually I have a long wait during which I figure out what I want. Today I walked up to the counter without time to make a choice.

"What would you like?" asked the friendly barista.

"I'm not sure." I said. "I'm trying to decide."

One of the other baristas chimed in. "Between what and what?" she asked.

"Well, I want something chocolate-y. With caffeine." I said.

"Sweet or not sweet? Hot or cold?" the second woman asked.

"Sweet, definitely. And hot." I told her. The two baristas started talking to each other, trying to figure this out for me.

"Maybe a mocha?" suggested the first woman.

"Or maybe a black and white?" suggested the second.

"What's a black and white?" I asked. That wasn't on the menu.

"It's half and half mocha and white chocolate mocha." the first woman said.

"Maybe one and a half mocha and one white chocolate mocha." said the second woman, who had grabbed a cup and put my name on it. "Let me play with it."

And she did. Finally she came up with 3 parts mocha and 2 parts white chocolate mocha, which she thought would give a good balance of sweetness and chocolate taste. She asked me to try it out to see if I liked it. I tried it and agreed, it was delicious. Sweet and hot and definitely chocolate tasting but with a slight toasted marshmallow flavor in the background. It didn't taste much like coffee, but that's okay with me since I mostly wanted the warmth and the caffeine and not a coffee taste.

What charmed me most, though, was the seriousness and thoughtfulness with which they approached the job. They really thought about what might taste good, what combination might be the right latte for me that morning. They took the extra time to make up something different. They wanted to make something for me, that I would like. They didn't have to be so helpful to make the sale. I would have bought something anyway. They just cared about what they were doing.

I'm sure they don't know it, but they gave me exactly what I needed this morning. A moment of connection, of kindness, of feeling like someone saw me and was willing to go a little out of there way to make something nice for me. It wasn't anything huge, but it made my heart warmer and my whole day better.

I think small things are important. I think small things can make more of a difference than anyone ever realizes. Sometimes it's the small things that we need the most.