How To Have Joy Around Bitter People

Updated: Jul 3, 2019

Living in a big city has a lot of challenges. One of the biggest challenges I face is the enormous amount of frustrated, annoyed, and disgruntled people I meet. When I stop to get groceries, the cashiers rarely look up at me. How are you today is not a common sentence thrown around in Los Angeles. When I go to the mall, the employees seem agitated I am checking out. In all fairness, I would be a grump if I worked at Forever 21 too. However, Starbucks may be the worst. When I have the choice, I prefer getting a coffee from a local coffee shop, but I confess I do frequent Starbucks more than I would like to admit.

What can I say? They are everywhere! I also know exactly what I am going to get: A grande black iced coffee without sweetener and a splash of soy milk. You want to get on my good side? Pick me up one of those any day of the week. I know how this drink is going to make me feel: alert with a healthy dose of jitters. I also know how it will taste: like dark, burnt chocolate with a touch of sweetness. When I'm traveling or driving across town and need a pick me up, I always resort to Starbucks, but often times the people here break my heart. They behave like drones, shouting out orders, and working as fast as they possibly can to pull espresso shots and blend frappachinos. There is no attention to detail. I'm not going to get some pretty leaf art in my drink, and nobody is going to ask how I am doing. Starbucks is like fast food for coffee, and in Los Angeles this fast paced style of service is only enhanced.

I've gotten used to standing in line at Starbucks silently. Unfortunately, I've had to become selective at who I smile at because my toothy, smile that takes up half my face and my eagerness to befriend everyone I meet has lead to lesbians asking me out, strange men inviting me to their house, and older women clutching their purses. Like I would steal a designer handbag from an old woman in public. Let me rephrase that. Like I would steal. All this to say, I do not small talk at Starbucks anymore and my smiles have become selective. But recently, I decided to try again. To attempt to be friendly and NOT let the mood of some random, employee bring me down. I decided to try on my birthday. Today, April 9th, is my 29th birthday. YIKES! I hate that number. I hate looking at it. It makes me anxious. To think this is the last year in my 20s, and I will never get this time period back makes me feel much more then anxious. It makes me sad, very sad. Why is time going by so fast! Why? I want to stop time and halt it from passing. Twenty-nine comes with a lot of changes, a lot of scary ones, but one constant that will always remain is a free birthday drink at Starbucks. Saving $2.50 on my staple drink brings me an overwhelming amount of joy, which I suppose is the tell tell sign that yes - I am a grown up.

I walked into Starbucks at 3pm today to get my usual drink for FREE because it's my birthday! When I walked up to the counter, I said, "Today is my birthday! I'm here for my free drink!" A thin, Caucasian woman, in her early 30s with a messy bun on top of her head and dark brown eyes grunted, "So. Where's your app?" Really Where is my app? Not even a Happy Birthday or a congratulations. I pulled out my phone and opened the recently downloaded app. She peaked at the screen. "I don't see a reward." I shrugged my shoulders. "My husband filled it out so I've actually never used this," I confessed. She sighed heavily and rolled her eyes. "It's fine. You can get it this time." Then she walked away to make my drink. I was dumbfounded. It's fine? Like I was some big burden. Guys, the place was dead. There was nobody in line but me. I could have figured out how to use the app. I just needed a few seconds. Plus I had my driver's license on me which proved I was born on this day.

As she turned away, to make the easiest drink on the menu, iced coffee, I felt a bubbling ball of anger swelling inside of me. This is the reaction I get after revealing it's my birthday. Exposing the fact I was born toady meant nothing to her. Granted, I did not know this woman, but her brash behavior and the plastered frown on her face made me feel extremely alone. My free iced coffee didn't even taste that great after I got it. I would have preferred to pay $2.50 and interact with someone who I don't know cared I was born today?! Okay, that is dramatic. Very dramatic. The point to all of this is to remind you how much POWER you have in your daily life to change the course of another person's day. There is this beautiful quote that goes like this:

"You want to change the world? Start with a smile. Ask someone how they are doing. A simple interaction with a stranger to show you care and they matter can change the course of their life forever."

If this Starbucks employee knew I had spent my entire birthday alone working and then was on my way to a three hour class, filled with more work and strangers, perhaps she would have reacted differently. If she knew how homesick I felt that day, longing to be with my closest friends back in Tennessee and visit with my family, maybe she would have at least smiled. Today if you're having a pitiful lonely birthday or just a crummy day, be mindful about taking your feelings out on other people. Remember: Our moods never just affect us. They affect everyone we encounter.

Today I encourage you to smile at the rushed Starbucks employee, ask the cashier at the grocery store how they are doing, or compliment a dejected employee at the mall. Thinking about how to bring joy to other peoples lives immediately eliminates the miserable thoughts you may be having about your own life. Every life is important. Every person matters. DO NOT let the moods of others bring you down. Let bad attitudes encourage you to be MORE positive, and to be a bursting bright, contagious LIGHT in this world that so many of us need to see.


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