I worked at Starbucks for a good long time. In that time, I had loads of regulars, people I saw five days a week, whom I got to know, to learn their stories. One of my favorites, Dan, was a lawyer. Personal injury. You're thinking bad things already, I can sense it. You're wrong. Dan was, is, a fine man. I know this because he would come in and tell us about his cases, one of which was for the family of a teenage boy who was killed in a fire due to building conditions. Dan and his wife went to what would have been the young man's high school graduation ceremony because the school was doing a tribute. He didn't need to be there, but he went to support the family. Dan always came in with a smile, was patient while waiting for his grande bold, or venti if it was going to be a long day. He brought in his family, his son, his two younger daughters, his wife on occasion because she hated coffee, and they were equally as nice.
One day we found out, and I'm not sure if it was from Dan himself or from another customer- it was a small community- that his wife had ALS. Was in the last stages of the disease. It seemed like I'd just seen her in. I couldn't believe it- we were all so surprised. And as a store- really guys, the folks I worked with at the Downers Grove Main Street Starbucks are among the best people I've ever known- we wanted to do something for Dan and his family. But what could we do? We couldn't organize a blood drive, fundraiser, give a donation. We couldn't take away her disease or make their pain go away. But we could show him love. So each one of us made it a point to connect with Dan and his kids every time they came in. Not just, "What size today?" but "How are you?" and really meaning it. We asked about his wife, how he and the kids were dealing with things. I spent some time with his youngest daughter, fifteen years old and good lord, I'm tearing up thinking about it now, because I understood what it was like to lose a mother when you're young and I wanted her to know that she wasn't alone and it sucks and you can get through it. It wasn't this huge gift, just a few minutes of our time, but it was something.
One Tuesday morning, Dan came in and bought a bunch of coffee travelers. As I helped him to his car, he let me know that his wife had passed away overnight. I put down the boxes and hugged him right in the foyer, told him how sorry I was. He thanked me, and, with tears in his eyes, told me that it had been such a long year, such a painful journey, but our store had helped him through it. That he had lived for his trips in because he could feel our love and care, and it had uplifted him, given him strength. It had been the greatest gift.
"There are no great things, only small things with great love." Mother Teresa
Listening to: The Civil Wars