As our church has spent the past several weeks contemplating what it means to live a life on mission, God began to challenge me on my habits. In particular, He has been working on me to take some first, small steps in that life, the step of truly noticing people.
So, I am a coffee guy. Let me rephrase…I am a guy in need of coffee. Rather than a need for good beans and a custom pour over, it is more like I just need a cup to start the day. I guess its presence matters more than its quality. But I also really like/need my sleep. And some mornings, those two needs really go to war, and I end up running late, needing to hit a Starbucks on the way.
A couple weeks ago was no different. The snooze button won, the Keurig button lost, and I needed to grab a coffee on the way into work. A foggy un-caffeinated drive, mobile order at a red light, in and out—two minutes tops.
But as I walk into the shop, I hear a voice, “Just put your drink up there, dude.”
It’s the guy behind the counter, big dude wearing the necessary green apron/headset combo.
My first thought is, “That’s cool.” I don’t know this guy, but he clearly knows me well enough to recognize me. Great customer service (or too many lattes?). I thanked him, grabbed the cup, and left. And it wasn’t until later I realized that I could not tell you his name.
This dude knew me well enough to recognize me (and my drink order) on sight… and I could not, for the life of me, tell you anything about him. I ended up having to go back and meet him.
Looking back, I had probably spoken to him a half-dozen times, maybe even asked about his day and joked about how tough it must be to pass out 1,000 lattes a shift. But did I know why he does what he does, what his story is, where he is from? No. I had not thought about him or really noticed him at all. I just took my drink—along with my life and my calling—right out the door and kept it to myself.
I was guilty, as I have been thousands of times, of breezing past the people in my day-to-day life. In a way, it is easier to connect with someone over a planned lunch or a coffee. But it takes more work and more intention to connect with the person who hands you a coffee. I don’t think God meant this as a challenge to be more polite or a just to remember names. This is about the power of noticing someone and the simple fact that a self-focused life buried in the day-to-day is not what He intends for any of us.
Turns out his name is Jake. Born in Cali, he helps lead the team at that location and has spent the past 20 years working in Starbucks locations all over the country.
How many like him are out there in our lives? How many baristas, store employees, day-care workers, neighbors, co-workers, or classmates do we walk beside or past every single day?
I am convinced that when John equates loving those around us with walking in the light, he means there is something about truly following Christ that changes how we see people (1 John 2). A deep love—rooted in a relationship with Jesus himself—cannot ignore people.
I have no idea what God is going to do with me and Jake. Maybe on another late morning, our conversation can move to more than life at Starbucks. I have no idea if I am the first or the 500th person who wonders about how he looks at faith. But I do know that I don’t want to miss the chance to be a part of what God is doing around me.
Noticing someone is not the silver bullet to a life on mission. It is only one small step out of the hundreds I need to take in my life—But it is an important one.
Jake is waiting out there, maybe holding your coffee. Will we care enough to slow down to meet him and the other people God has placed in our lives? You never know what God will do with a conversation, a question, or just some listening.
This is where God is teaching me, ever so slowly, to live a life on mission.