Serving a Barista

She was working the early shift at a small Starbucks counter in Dulles Airport. The young barista had probably been up since 4 or 5 a.m., and she already looked worn out.

After placing my order with the cashier I stood by the counter while the barista finished the coffee ordered just before me. Even though she was clearly tired, she didn’t rush the process.

BaristaAfter filling the cup with a latte, she took a syrup dispenser and painted a beautiful pattern on top of the foam. When she was done, she reached for a plastic cover and was about to put it on the cup.

“Don’t do that!” I whispered. She looked up with surprise in her eyes, wondering if she’d done something wrong. I smiled and said, “You’ve done such a beautiful job on his coffee; don’t cover it until he sees your artwork.”

A smile lit her face as she placed the cup on the counter with the lid beside it. Its waiting owner had overheard my comment, so when he took the cup, he added his praise to mine. Placing a generous tip in the jar, he too smiled warmly and thanked her for her special efforts.

When she looked back at me, the weary look was gone from her face. I asked her how long she’d been working for Starbucks, and she answered, “Six months.”

“Well, with that kind of artistry and customer care,” I replied, “you’re going to be successful wherever you work.”

Her eyes lit up even more as she thanked me and went to work on my order. When I walked away with my own wonderfully decorated latte a few minutes later, it was hard to tell which one of us was feeling more energized.

This brief encounter illustrates the SERVE Principle, an acrostic that summarizes five ways to improve your other-awareness and other-engagement. If you want to relate to others in a way that honors God and builds others up, ask him to empower you to …

“SERVE every person you meet”

  • Smile (At home, in the office, at the store; even on the phone, a smile changes the sound of your voice and sends a message of warmth and friendliness; see Seven Benefits of a Smile)
  • Explore and Empathize (Observe others, ask questions, and show interest and compassion)
  • Reconcile (Be a peacemaker, always ready to confess, forgive, and reconcile others to one another)
  • Value (Express appreciation and admiration for what others do)
  • Encourage (Give courage and inspire, always leaving others with more “wind under their wings”)

As you reflect on how much you’ve appreciated it when other people have treated you in these ways, I hope you’ll be inspired to look for opportunities to SERVE every person you meet throughout your day.

Just think how that could impact your family, neighbors, co-workers, or church … or the barista at your local coffee shop.

– Ken Sande

Reflection Questions:

  • Describe a time when someone engaged you with one or more of the SERVE actions. How did it make you feel? How did it affect the way you went on with your day?
  • Describe a time when you really needed someone to engage you with one or more of the SERVE actions, but no one did. How did it make you feel? How did it affect the way you went on with your day?
  • Identify a person who lives out the SERVE process on a regular basis. Describe a few examples of what you’ve seen that person do and how it affected others.
  • Identify one or more settings in which you plan to live out the SERVE process in the days ahead. Describe specifically what you plan to do and who you hope to bless (remembering not to let your actions depending on getting a specific response from others).
  • Write the SERVE principle on a card or Smartphone reminder, and pray that God will inspire and empower you to practice it in every encounter of your day.

Permission to distribute: Please feel free to download, print, or electronically share this message in its entirety for non-commercial purposes with as many people as you like.

© 2013 Ken Sande

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