Saturday, November 28, 2020

Column: Coffee kindles kindness; let's pass the cup

November 19, 2020
Photo illustration by Hope Ann Flores.
Photo illustration by Hope Ann Flores. —
Photo by Hope Ann Flores | The State News

I’ve recently been trying to wake up earlier, something my girlfriend has inspired me to do. But it’s hard … really hard some days. Monday, Nov. 9 was no exception. 

I expected the grogginess to cast a lullaby over my ambitious attempt to start the day and week with a champion-like attitude aimed at bettering myself. Oh, how I learned something about myself during that pink-skyed Monday morning. 

You see, I’ve been in a rut lately, as I feel a lot of us have. Remote classes (and even remote work), although undoubtedly necessary during an unyielding pandemic, has caused us, in some aspects, to be stagnant. 

For me, I’ve had trouble escaping the grounds. My apartment is homey, so it makes working remotely comfortable … sometimes too comfortable to the point where I don’t want to leave it, which is fair. As I said, an unforgiving virus remains, beating its heart in the air. 

That’s why I decided to dedicate Monday’s sunrise to me, treating myself to a store-bought coffee in hopes of jump-starting the week with a jovial jolt. In this simple coffee-driven journey, however, I found myself plonked (I love that word) deep inside a philosophical juncture rather than in a drive-thru line. 

Weird, I know. I didn’t expect it either. 

As I sat in line listening to a rediscovered Kenny Chesney song, I paid close attention to its lyrics as they echoed through my vacant-morning mind: “Laugh and live with a half-full cup. Yeah, happy is as happy does.” 

I inched my way toward the window, and when I finally pulled up, I was greeted by a familiar face — a good friend of mine whom I grew close with during our Case Hall residency together freshman year. But as we moved out of the dorms the following year, our encounters shrank, so I treasure when our paths cross unexpectedly.

She handed me my morning brew, and I handed her my credit card, which she immediately gave back and said, “Nope,” allowing me to drive off with the surprise gift of free coffee. 

This was not a planned column. As the election meets its aftermath, my plate is covered with story assignments, but that day-making event was not a planned occasion. 

Sometimes, though, when a moment like that makes your heart so full, you have to act on your own inclinations. I picked up my computer and wrote. 

I couldn’t stop thinking about how happy seeing my old-time friend and receiving a coffee on-the-house made me. How could I pass it on? 

Remember those commercials, those Pass It On PSA’s sponsored by The Foundation for a Better Life? I do. I remember always seeing them during commercial breaks as a kid when I watched the Detroit Tigers play on TV.

Yes, they were cheesy, but you’d call me a liar if I said that I didn’t like a little mozzarella sprinkled on top of my life ... O.K., what I’m getting at is this: 

My friend didn’t have to grace me with free coffee. She chose to. And doing so probably wasn’t anything too significant for her; she probably didn’t give it much of a second thought.

But it meant something to me. 

And that’s the key. You never really know the influence your undertakings will have in somebody else’s life, especially during a time filled with strife and disease. The smallest tokens of care and compassion — a big smile, a quick compliment, a brief check-in over the phone — those are the memories people will remember you by. Those are the twinkles that shine back to you as you recap your day. 

I called both my mom and my girlfriend later that night. The first news I led with was: “My friend got me free coffee today.” 

They’re little gestures, but they have such a lasting impact. They can alter days, weeks, months and even years. In some cases, they can alter lives. Again, we never really know the influence our undertakings will have  on somebody else’s life. 

Fundamentally, I think we all intrinsically know the importance of looking out for each other, showering each other with love and kindness. 

If you’ve read any of my columns before, you’re probably well aware that I center my attention around humanity. This column does not stray from the former, but it serves as a reminder because I think this is a message that can regularly get shoved aside. When the world gives you a gift, give a gift back to the world. 

It’s not hard to do, it’s just easy to forget. 

So, thank you, friend. Thank you for reminding me about the beauty behind being nice. I believe the world can learn so much from people like you. 

This column is part of our Election Aftermath print issue. Read the full issue here.

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