I watch as suit-clad patrons bark into cellphones, shoulder-pressed to their ears. How they seem to vibrate with impatience and radiate a wall of indifference for those around them, letting only a Large Mocha Frappucino into their bubble of inflated self-importance. I find myself at Starbucks on my worst days, days filled with stress, anxiety, and heartbreak. It is not because I share a deep need for coffee with the caffeine craving suit-sharks and appearance addicted Instagram-athletes. But because of the kindness, and comfort I have found in complete strangers.
My first year of high-school, was the first year I had to ride a school bus and my first time dealing with the world on my own. I was terrified. When I got off at my stop the first day, I walked into a Starbucks, needing a place to sit and compose myself before walking the rest of the distance home. Despite the line of people and the general din of the patrons, the barista behind this downtown coffee shop counter was the first person that day to stop and smile at me. The kindness he showed me was simple but it gave me the confidence I needed to continue on.
Recently, a partner of mine hurt me, exploiting several things I had confided in him for amusement. I drove aimlessly afterward, unsure of who I was, or where I belonged. After awhile I found myself in the line for a Starbucks. The line stretched well out of the queue and onto the street. Cars blared their horns and patrons shouted obscenities. I didn’t mind, the noise concealed my sobs. When I reached the window the man apologized for the wait and the disorganization immediately, then stood with me. He asked how my day was, and I shrugged. Seeing the tear streaks staining my cheeks, he asked what happened. The only answer I could muster was a cynical, “I need to stop dating guys.” The stranger with the green apron quickly disappeared from the window, and appeared next to my car a moment later, out of breath and giggling, “me too,” he held out his arms offering me a hug. And just like that, a complete stranger was responsible for saving my day, and reminding me that being alone isn’t a synonym of being sad.
I find solace in the strangers behind the counter. I find comfort in the concern one can have for some one they do not know. I find strength in the kindness of genuine smiles from passers-by. I will always be grateful for the hugs, smiles, and words of wisdom that have saved my days. I will always be grateful for Starbucks. I will always smile back.