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A Life Changing Cup of Coffee

Menu Board, Poplar Perk'n(Note from Shawn: This was originally sent out in a New WOW update—sign up in sidebar—and I got such a positive response, I’m putting it up on the blog. Enjoy!)

Whether you’re in a sour mood looking to lighten up, or in a good mood ready to blast off into bliss, there is a single perspective shift that flips the switch in an extraordinary way.

About a decade ago, I worked at a cafe in San Luis Obispo, a sweet little town on the Central Coast of California where I had recently moved.

Not only was it a great way to meet folks from different parts of the community, it was an effective reality check injection into my dream of opening my own cafe. My mind had played the fun parts of cafe-life over and over in my imagination and had conveniently left out scenes of potential incompatibility.

For example, I’m an introvert. I know this comes as a surprise to some people, but it’s absolutely true.

Being an introvert doesn’t mean I don’t like hanging out with people or being social. What it means is that as soon as I get tired from socializing, the overwhelming instinct kicks in to beeline to a quiet place where I can close the door and be alone.

Given that lovely solitude, depleted energy reserves refill. When not allowed that luxury, my mood goes sour and quickly.

At some point in your life, you’ve probably worked in some aspect of food service and know that, while it can be fun, it’s something like work. And there’s a lot of socializing to be done.

At my cafe job, the 8am customers would get my sunny, cheerful mood.
The mid-morning folks would be met with a mildly irked patience.
The early lunch customers would get an aspect of a Medusa-wannabe.

Until one day. My shift was almost over. The crank factor in me was rising as the customer on the other side of the counter stared at the drink board. He was the kind of guy who didn’t seem to have it all together. He was indecisive, taking too long. He kept making lame comments that were borderline inappropriate (he thought they were funny).

As I waited for him to decide, a thought hit me upside the head:
What if this were God I’m talking to?

The reasoning was close behind:
If God is the energy making up the very fabric of the Universe, then this was God in front of me.
And this being the case, he deserved just as much humble respect as the Dalai Lama or Jesus or anyone else who represents all that is Good.

This stopped me in my tracks. It didn’t matter one whit who this guy was or what his deal was. Maybe he was lonely, maybe he was insecure, maybe he was mildly mentally challenged. I don’t know and it didn’t matter.

What mattered was that anything I said or thought toward him be in the spirit of humility to all that weaves us together in this common experience of life.

The dynamic changed immediately. I gave him my full attention and he looked as if he got what he needed.

This lesson showed me that my job there at the cafe wasn’t about serving coffee as much as it was about Service. Service to each and every person who came through that door, whatever their reason might be.

Life is a fantastic gift. It’s also hard, confusing, and bewildering at times. It was so easy to get caught up in my own experience and lose touch with the bigger picture. By acknowledging each customer as a light deserving to shine, I gave them so much more than what they came for. And, man, did that feel good!!!

The gratitude I have for that experience in the cafe is immense. In fact, the lesson learned has become part of my definition of Success. Well, not the lesson itself, but the quality of the experience:
When I acknowledge and interact with someone as if they were God, my heart opens to joy. And that, for me, is a successful interaction.

Why don’t you give it a try? The next time you’re at a cafe or the grocery store, find a person you normally wouldn’t talk to and ask yourself, What if this were God I was talking to? (Or whatever your interpretation of the Divine is.) Ask them how their day is going. Give them the gift of your full and undivided attention. Give the gift of your presence.

It’s such a simple thing to do that opens up the world in a crazy wonderful way.

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