This morning I stood in line to buy an extra-large latte in the basement of a hospital. Nurses, doctors, friends, family members of patients waiting to buy coffee. The barista was wearing a plaid shirt over a white t-shirt. Hanging down the front of his t-shirt was an ornate cross, brown on a long chain. His brown hair was short. He was wearing a smile.
After he handed me my coffee and I handed him four dollars, he looked past me and started to take the next order. I asked him, ” Excuse me, may I please have cold milk added to it.”
He could have been angry, or perhaps he might have been perturbed. The line was long, and I wanted more milk. A mild inconvenience but it could have bothered him. You have met people in the service industry who don’t like to be asked for anything extra. The tightening around the eyes, a sigh, or a tisk, and you know they are bothered by your request.
Beneath the surface of the skin on my face was a flood. A flood of tears. Waiting. Waiting.
The barista smiled and added the milk.
At the end of the day, there was no line for coffee. The barista in the plaid shirt, with the cross and the smile was wiping down the counter. filling the sugar container. I walked past and then stopped at the counter making a line of one.
“Hey, I just wanted to thank you for your smile this morning. Your smile made a bad day better. I know you are serving coffee, but what you do matters. Your smile matters. Thank you.”
Smile at someone today and chase away their tears.
He looked at me. He said, “Thank you.” Or he said something like that. Or maybe he didn’t say anything. But he smiled again. Then he came around the counter and hugged me. A hug like he was your brother and you just needed a good cry.
And I did.
To weep is to make less the depth of grief.
― William Shakespeare