The saying ‘What goes around comes around’ showed itself to be true at Starbucks. Last week, I dropped into my regular Starbucks location for lunch and work on a file. As I’m sitting down, my attention is drawn to a young south Asian man. He seems drunk as he lowers his pants and lifts his shirt while repeating ‘stomach empty, hungry’.
It appeared that the Starbucks customers were getting disturbed and didn’t know how to deal with this man approaching them. I mentioned it to Starbucks staff who seemed to be taken aback and also weren’t sure how to handle the situation. To manage the situation before it escalated, I approached the man and asked, “How you doing?”.
Stomach Empty, Hungry
The young man’s reply was the same line ‘stomach empty, hungry’. I straight out asked him, if he had been drinking, to which his reply was the same as before. I pulled out some money, looked at him in the eye and said ‘take this and buy yourself lunch across the parking lot. Make sure you take care of yourself.’ He was very grateful and kept thanking me. I repeated, ‘Just take care of yourself. Go. Go take care of yourself’. I had to repeat it a couple of times.
As he was leaving, I realized that I had seen that man around the neighbourhood before. In fact, a few years ago, I had given him some money to help me with some handy work on a property.
The Community We Build
I had forgotten about the whole incident. Then, yesterday, I found myself at the same Starbucks. As I’m ordering my sandwich, the supervisor, Bonny comes over. Calling me by my first name she says, “I want to thank you for what you did last week. The manager was here and we saw the whole thing.”. At first I didn’t realize what she was talking about.
Then she reminded me about the incident. I wasn’t expecting her to say, “You handled that situation really well for us. Richard (the manager), didn’t think you should have to buy him lunch, so he wanted me to give you a free lunch and drink”. I may not be getting every word exact, but it is basically what she said and she went on to explain how it made a big difference to the other customers.
It left me speechless. Not only hadn’t I realized that anyone really noticed, but that it would affect anyone beyond the hungry young man. All I could say was “thank you, but you don’t have to pay for my lunch”. Bonny wouldn’t have it any other way and insisted that the lunch was on Starbucks.
We Are A Community
That’s when I realized the extend to which Starbucks is wanting to build a community, an environment of support, in which customers can come and feel that Italian ‘piazza’ atmosphere. A place where you can feel free to talk about anything and build relationships with others that may rely on Starbucks for their morning jolt, snack, temporary office station, meeting point or just to get out of the home or office.
Over the last day, I’ve thought about all the friends and business acquaintances I’ve met at Starbucks. Some I’ve done business with, others I’ve exchanged wisdom. They’ve included aspiring authors, film producers, e-commerce entrepreneurs, students, teachers, crypto-currency traders, business owners, and many more that don’t come to mind right now.
It is up to you and I to build our community or communities and we need to be engaged and pro-active to make it happen.
A Glass of Water in The Dessert
One of the lessons I’ve learned in life is that you can give a glass of water to two different people and the impact can be totally different between the two. Give a man in a river a glass of water and he wouldn’t appreciate it. However, give a man in the desert a glass of water and he will remember it for life. It may have saved his life.
The glass of water is an analogy for needs that those around us may have. That young man in the Starbucks had a need for lunch because he was hungry. To him it was the most important thing, something he needed to go on. To everyone else, perhaps it would have been unneeded calories.
For the Starbucks staff, my gesture was needed because they may not have been equipped to handle the situation without escalation and potentially bad publicity. For that they were greatly appreciated.
And for me… my glass of water was being recognized by name and acknowledged for making a difference to others. You see, I needed that this week, perhaps as much as that young man needed his lunch. We all have a tough time when we question the things we do and the value we add to others. Sometimes, getting acknowledge is our glass of water in the desert. Remember that today, look around you, and ask yourself who needs a glass of water!
That is the main reason why I’m sharing this with you. Another reason is that as important as this sort of thing is, the main street media will not likely mention it. At a time when our attention is being diverted to political mud-slinging, scandals, shootings and other discouraging activities, we need to see more of these unspoken acts.
Thank You Starbucks Community
I thank Bonny, Richard and the wonderful staff at the Kennedy Commons Starbucks (in Agincourt) for their service, support and importantly their glass of water in the desert.
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