I have held thirty jobs in my thirty-six years of life. One stands out above all the rest, in terms of the joy it gave back. Grab A Java, in Springfield, IL. The tiniest, cutest coffee hut, a drive-thru. Its windows wrap around a team of four, each morning, hours during which words are of little necessity. One at each window, one on coffee duty, and one at the espresso machine. The inner workings of a clock. Such fluidity. Such efficiency. So much fun. (My sister is there now, and has been, every blessed day, for the last ten years. As sisters can, we took the other’s spot in space, in time. I walked out and she walked in. And therefore, we both remain.)
I’ve tried to figure out what it is, about coffee. Why did the customers there treat us like gods? Why is it, that when I find out you take your coffee just like mine, I feel as though I have found my kin? Why is it my absolute favorite gift to give?
I love hospitals the way I do airports. The coming and going, the understanding that this is a passing-through. In a local hospital earlier this week, I sat on a bench, across from its coffee stand. It was like watching migration to a holy place. The masses came, put down the cup they needed filled, and left renewed. They were so gentle. (This was a fill-and-go kind of place, with carafes lined up next to cups. So the customer was, in a sense, doing their own labor, and still treating the cashier like they had done them an enormous favor.)
My observation led to a realization, one that, internally, I already knew. Coffee makes us feel cared for. Simplistically, at that. There is no room for misinterpretation. For one moment, in each terrifying day, we are so safe. Please take this, fill it up with something good. Something that helps me affront the day. Something that delights my senses. Something that fills the tiniest of holes in my heart.
I work in a clinic with a little kitchen in the back, with a vintage Bunn coffee maker. The coffee we use when making batches for the masses is low grade. It barely smells of coffee. I can’t see a hint of shine on those cracked beans. It makes me so sad.
So when a client comes in and no one’s watching, I offer them a cup from the Keurig in the staff lunchroom. “Dark, medium or light roast?” I ask. “Do you take anything in your coffee?”
I skip back to the break room, prepare their tailored drink, and hand it back to them, always with two hands wrapped around the cup. I make sure not to touch their hands as they take it, but I do make sure to come close. Place your hands on the cup as my hands slide off it. Take this from me. Let me give this to you.
I am constantly trying to break into people’s hearts. Every time I look up on the street. Every time I enter a room. I stare into eyes and wait for them to find mine. I wait to see what we’ll do together, the two humans that we are. Will we carve out space for kindness, in this moment we have?
Coffee, that darling, gives us an automatic ‘In.’ She cuts to the chase, on the quick.
It is true, that mere moments after making another’s coffee, or drinking it alongside them — they may drift, may disconnect, may find no kinship with you.
But then, there is