The line was long when I approached, but I found my place at the end and anticipated the cup of coffee and pastry I was about to enjoy. When I reached the counter I gave my order and paid. The transaction went smoothly, and the cashier was friendly and efficient.
But, then, I noticed something was wrong when the barista started preparing my order. At this point I had not had the chance to communicate with her in any way, but she acted upset about having to serve me. She refused to make eye contact with me and offered no verbal communication whatsoever.
As I moved along to the end of the counter to wait for my order to be filled I kept trying to find an opportunity to smile and say something positive, but she acted as if I wasn't there. Then she set my order down in front of me without looking at or speaking to me. I thanked her as I picked up my coffee and pastry and found a table across the room where I sat, ate, drank, and watched.
I tried not to judge my experience and further observation of the scene negatively. Negative judgement seemed unfair since I lacked vital information—I knew no one's story but my own. But I did know the barista who served me was unhappy, at least for the moment.
It wasn't because I hadn't tried, but I hated offering nothing. She had served me efficiently—my order was correct and even tasty. But she did it without joy. I knew it was unlikely, but I was concerned I had contributed in some way to her lack. To be unable to give life where it was clearly needed saddened me.
I went back the next day hoping things would be different. They were, but not because of me. From a distance I could see as I made my way to the coffee bar that she was already in a better mood. Even so, I made sure to look at her and smile. And she looked and smiled back. I made sure to say positive words as I waited, and I thanked her for serving me before I left. She told me to have a great day. Nothing miraculous happened—just kindness.
I'm sharing my experience with you because I think it's important for us to look for ways to offer life even when others don't know it's being offered and even when they seem unreceptive to our offering. I've had other experiences like this one, and I assume you have had them as well. Maybe you find it easy to be kind when others aren't, but my human nature is to reciprocate rudeness when I'm treated rudely. I'm trying to allow God to change me into a better follower of His example.
Maybe my going back to check on her gave life. It's what I intended. It was obvious my being there was not what changed her demeanor, but I walked away feeling better that she was having a better day. And, even though it was nothing special, I hoped my presence had offered more life. Maybe it did; maybe it didn't.
I'm certainly not the epitome of example for life-gifting, but I did try to be a life-gifter. Who knows; maybe my looking for the opportunity to give life is what gave life. It did give life to me.
(The accompanying artwork above was painted by my daughter, Jaelyn Elle.)