In the mornings as I prepare my children for school and me for work, I’m focused… usually. The focus factor would depend on confirmation of my to-do list for the day and the amount of caffeine I’ve consumed at that point in time. So a few months ago during one of my morning routines, in my haste I inadvertently left my coffee at home (those really close to me know that I’ve since given up the stuff because I realized I was addicted not to the coffee but to the sugar and cream). I knew I didn’t want to drink the stuff offered at work (blah!) and I didn’t have time to stop by Starbucks so I darted over to a fast food chain.
“Butter biscuit and a medium decaf coffee with three creams and two sugars, please.”
The Voice sighed ,”You want anything else?”
Hmm did I detect an attitude? Me, politely, “No, thank you.”
The Voice, ” Okay that’s a sausage biscuit and a medium coffee. Drive ’round for your total.”
That’s not what I said. I repeated the order.
The Voice, “Drive ’round for your total!”
I just wanted my coffee, please. Drama free.
I was greeted at the window by a very young woman. She seemed despondent. Her shoulders slumped over slightly and her brow was furrowed. Her braided hair was pulled back in a ponytail which was partially concealed by her uniform cap. She wore no make-up on her brown face, no lip gloss and other than the occasional blink, she seemed barely conscious. The window opened.
“What did you order?”
Something in my head (spirit) said to speak kind words, I did.
“Good morning,”I replied smiling. I repeated my order.
She punched the keys reluctantly.
“Is everything alright?” I asked.
“I don’t feel good.”
”Why didn’t you call out, take a sick day?” Seemed simple right? I handed her cash.
”I can’t, they’ll cut my hours for the rest of the week if I miss a day.”
Wow. I didn’t have a response for that one. She handed me my change. I was curious. She was young, seemed pretty intelligent, obviously responsible (showing up for
work when she was clearly sick). I asked how old she was. Wouldn’t you know it, The Voice was 18 years old. We struck up a quick conversation and I found out that she’s been on her own since she was 16, a high school graduate. She’s had no parental or family support. She “holds it down” by herself. Quite commendable actually.
I asked her about college and she laughed. “I can’t afford college.” I saw a few cars in my side view mirror starting to pile up behind me. I said quickly,” Look, I know how you feel, I was once in your shoes but let me tell what I did.” I went on to tell her how I barely got into college because of my then financial situation. Like her I too had little support but I made up my mind that I wanted to go. I did. And I didn’t look back. I told her a little about my life now and the success I’ve attained because I defined it for myself and didn’t allow material wealth and gain to be a defining factor.
My final words to her was that she was worth it, she deserved better. I stared her squarely in the eyes and said with all the sisterly love in the world, “You’re worth it. You’re too young to be here thinking this is all there is to life. You deserve a chance to at least try.” She cried a little. Dang now I’m getting misty. The Voice smiled for the first time in our 5 minute exchange. ”Thank you,” she seemed lighter. ” I think I needed to hear that today. You’re right I deserve better.”
I just wonder how many other times I’ve plowed through my day without taking the time to talk to someone who really could use a compassionate ear or a kind word.
I know that I’m where I am today because I had a couple of teachers that believed in me. I had friends who knew I could do it and I encountered people every now and again that would offer an encouraging word or two.
The Voice and I exchanged names and numbers and she’s still on my radar, I’m going to make sure that she’s aware of every educational opportunity available. I believe if you treat people as if they were who they should be then you help them become who they are capable of being. I encourage you to shift your focus. Encourage someone today, offer a kind word, help someone achieve their dream — you never know what type of impact you will have on their life or how it will impact yours.