Things I’ve Learned as a Starbucks Barista

I apologize for the lack of updates here on the ol’ blog…I’ve been sickly for about 3 weeks now and I’m just starting to come out of the fog that was sinus troubles, at any rate, this one’s been…wait for it…”percolating” for some time (sorry, I couldn’t resist).

So this past December I picked up a part time job at Starbucks. I picked up the job for two reasons. One, as we continue to be in the process of raising support, we needed to supplement some of our income from another job of some sorts. And two, I wanted to work in a job that kept me in and connected to our neighborhood. Enter Starbucks…it’s literally two blocks from our house and has been an amazing place to put the things we are learning in our apprenticeship into action. God’s been teaching me quite a bit through this little part time job.

Our neighborhood Starbucks

A couple of months ago, while working an early morning shift, I was asked a question by a co-worker whom I had only ever worked with once or twice before. Out of nowhere, she had said that she and our manager were talking about me and wondering if I meditated. She said, “Jeff do you meditate? Because it seems like you are always calm, cool and collected; no matter what’s going on, you’re pretty laid back.” I was a bit surprised by her question. “No,” I said, “I don’t meditate, but I do pray. And I think what you see in me is Jesus. I’m not always calm, cool and collected, but I do try my best to love people, regardless of what’s happening and how I’m treated, cause that’s what Jesus’ does with me.” “Hmm…,” she responded,”I need to learn from you. I have a hard time dealing with a lot of people.” And just like that the conversation was over. As I’ve reflected on that time, and that question, I’m more and more aware of the reality that people are always watching us. The way I respond to others, the words I use, the actions that I take with others are being watched. My desire is to point those I come in contact with towards Jesus both in words and actions. I am reminded that even when I working, I am called to be on mission for Jesus. To be a follower of Jesus means I am on mission wherever I go; work, home, throughout my neighborhood; I’m to live out the realities of God’s kingdom. I’m so thankful for the opportunity to be able to live this out day to day in the midst of so many different neighbors, friends and coworkers at Starbucks. But it’s not always easy.

One thing that working as a coffee barista teaches you is patience. I’ve been learning through my experiences at Starbucks how to be patient and loving to those who are really difficult. Spend any time in a coffee shop and you know what can happen. That one patron in front of you who can’t decide what they want to order, and so they take their good old sweet time, while the line behind them continues to build all the way to the door. Or that patron who has the craziest and most intricate little drink that you make for them but it doesn’t taste quite right, and so you make it again…and again…until you get it just perfect…and then there’s not even a thank you at the end, they just huff and puff out of there, frustrated that you didn’t get their drink right the first time. Some days can be tough at Starbucks. Some days are filled with non-stop “go-go-go” busyness, others are filled with ungrateful and terribly rude customers, and still others are filled with coworkers who are having bad days that tend to spill over to everyone around them. Those days can often times challenge you. Let’s face it, it’s not always easy to love those who aren’t nice to you, or those who don’t treat you with sincerity and patience. In fact, it’s a lot of those situations where I find myself struggling so hard to show love, patience and kindness. It’s in those situations where it can be difficult to find joy. But what I began to notice on those days is that my joy was tied up in how my work days went. When I had a “good” day, I would find myself in a “good” mood. However when my day was particularly trying I found myself frustrated and would classify it as a “bad” day. At the beginning I found there were a lot of frustrating days replete with frustrating people and situations. I decided to begin praying specifically that I’d find joy day in and day out regardless of what was happening around me. Now, it didn’t necessarily happen over night, but over time I began to see that as I turned my focus on Jesus and my call to serve, love, and show grace as He himself does, my joy shifted, from joy based on circumstances to joy based on Jesus regardless of circumstances. This was a huge shift for me. When I find my joy in Jesus, I am joyful regardless of what’s happening around me. Huge. And so I continue to pray and ask Jesus to be my joy each early morning as I walk to work. And as I do that, God is so faithful to help me find joy sometimes even in the smallest things.

One thing I continue to be reminded of when I interact with my customers, coworkers, and neighbors is that we (ALL OF US) are needy and broken and want to be loved and accepted for who we are. What a joy it is to be in a position to remind people of the reality that they are indeed loved and cared for, even if it’s just with a smile, or a free cup of coffee when they’re having a rough day, or a word of encouragement when they’re struggling to even get words out of their own mouths. I can rejoice with my coworkers when they succeed in their lives and their studies. I can mourn with my coworkers as they lose parents or struggle to find who they are in life. I can pray for my coworkers and regulars as I see them each day. I can work and serve with excellence even when I don’t feel like it, because I’m not just working for my Starbucks manager but for God himself. I can remind others of reasons to find joy even when they struggle to do so themselves. The reality is people matter to God and therefore they must matter to me. Pointing people to Jesus, through words and actions is a joy. When we live with an understanding of the gospel, we will serve selflessly, because that’s what Jesus did. We will love, even when it’s really hard to do so, because that’s what Jesus did. We will point others to God, because that’s what Jesus did. When my life is focused on doing that, I find true joy and peace. What a privilege we have to serve others. I don’t know about you but I need to continually be reminded of my call to be on mission wherever I am at. And I’m thankful for a job that is seemingly inconsequential on our culture’s scale, but has unbelievable opportunities and value on God’s Kingdom scale. Whatever we’re doing, wherever we find ourselves, we represent God to those around us and that’s a big deal!

I’m not gonna lie; getting free coffee is kind of sweet too!!

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One Comment

  1. Wow, that is truly amazing! For you to notice that you were letting circumstances affect you, made a conscious decision to not let that continue and then basically get a message from God saying “great job!” by bringing a co-worker to you asking how you stay so calm which then opened the door for you to tell them about Jesus! What a great reminder to us all that you never know who’s watching and noticing what you do and how the smallest action can change lives.

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