Column: Starbucks and the Golden Rule

“I’d like a triple Grande caramel macchiato with whipped cream and extra, extra, EXTRA caramel drizzle in a Venti cup, please.” This is a typical order from a seasoned Starbucks patron and an order that I filled many times while working as a barista this summer.

Working at Starbucks was a lot of fun, and hey, free coffee! But like any job, some days were not so fun. Not because of the craziness of the morning rush, or the mishaps or the stickiness of syrup all over everything, but because of the customers who considered their cup of coffee more important than the people who made it.

My workday was always influenced by how the customers treated me. Did they make an effort to be pleasant? Were they polite? Were they patient? Sadly, some days it seemed the polite people were the exception. Oddly enough, I’m thankful for those rude customers because they opened my eyes to my own self-centeredness. How many times have I been in a bad mood and not cared about how I treated those around me? Do I use my busy life as an excuse to be inconsiderate? I’ll admit, my experiences at Starbucks were eye-opening.

Starbucks is a lot like the college experience. We lead busy, stressful lives. Homework piles up, semester projects loom in the not-so-distant future, and there never seems to be enough time to accomplish everything. It’s easy to be consumed by it all and neglect the people that we meet along the way. Are we friendly? Do we acknowledge others? Or are we too caught up in our own ambitions to care?

Part of being a good example for Christ is letting His love shine through us in our treatment of others. The Bible commands us to respect others in Matthew 7:12a, which says, “Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them.” This verse, commonly known as “The Golden Rule,” introduces the foundational rule that good manners are built upon.

I remember one Starbucks customer who came through our drive-thru with her dog, Roscoe, every morning at 6 a.m. Her order: two Grande Americanos and a cup of whipped cream for Roscoe. Fulfilling her order normally took us about one-and-a-half minutes. A few times we were especially busy, and it took several minutes for us to get her order out to her. But no matter how long she had to wait, she was always so polite. She was never impatient and always smiled. She probably never thought anything of her manners, but she and those like her always made a rough day better.

Being respectful of others doesn’t require much from you. There will still be food in the dining common even if you don’t cut in line. Holding that door for the person walking behind you into Alumni will most likely not make you late for class. And smiling at a stranger you pass on the sidewalk is one of the simplest expressions of Christlike love.

In the words of Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Life is not so short but that there is always time for courtesy.”