Remembering a forever young barista

A couple of decades ago, if anyone would have said that people would routinely cough up three or four dollars for a specialty cup of coffee, most folks wouldn’t have believed it. Yet today, it’s commonplace for countless individuals to hand over about that much for their favorite latte, steaming cappuccino, or creamy smoothie.

According to www.foxnews.com, a report from Acorns Money Matters records that “the average American spends approximately $1,100 a year– or $3 each day– on coffee.” But it’s not solely about the beverage, it’s about everything that goes along with it.

Best-selling author, Dr. Leonard Sweet, believes that atmosphere has a lot to do with profitability. In his book, The Gospel According to Starbucks, Sweet writes, “Starbucks built an assumption-shattering business by selling an irresistible experience along with every cup of coffee.” “In 2017, there were 13,930 Starbucks stores in the U.S.,” reports www.statista.com. “The total number of Starbucks stores worldwide has almost doubled in the decade between 2007 and 2017.”

According to www.amazon.com, “Leonard Sweet shows you how the passion that Starbucks® has for creating an irresistible experience can connect you with God’s stirring introduction to the experience of faith in The Gospel According to Starbucks.” As for the coffee shop itself, Sweet attributes the décor, “appealing music,” and a “melody of complex coffee smells” as contributing to the Starbucks “sensory feast.” If we think deeply, that’s part of the pleasure that we find in most coffee shops whether an independent or chain. We aren’t merely buying a $2.00 cup of java or a more expensive specialty drink, but there’s something else we’re also purchasing. Dr. Sweet explains, “…coffee is a hospitality drink, a sign of welcome and openness to sharing.” It can be invigorating to sit in a coffee shop with a friend and connect in meaningful conversation. Of course, often we’re in a real rush and want our coffee in a hurry.

On other occasions, we visit a coffeehouse, because we not only want something to drink, but the sensation that we are of some significance in this normally impersonal world. A great barista can make a customer feel noticed and appreciated, even though technically their job is simply to politely prepare a tasty beverage.

And that’s how I met Kaitlin. Some years back, I decided to grab a coffee after my husband and I transplanted to a new area. I had been grocery shopping, and was feeling a little lonely and displaced in the way moving has of doing. I was pleasantly taken off-guard by the brunette barista’s thoughtfulness when I initially visited the grocery’s Starbucks kiosk.

While still efficiently getting her work done, the young employee acted like she had all the time in the world for me. That I was the most important customer of her day, even though I was an older lady who had trouble deciding what I wanted. This trait can be annoying to most milennials, but Kaitlin didn’t seem to mind. Maybe because I never had a daughter, I felt privileged that she smiled and seemed genuinely happy to see me whenever I showed up at her counter.

Somehow, the dedicated barista made me feel connected to my then new community. Kaitlin and I would chat a few minutes, while she prepared my drink, if she wasn’t busy. I never knew her last name, or much about her personal life except about her schooling, but I was thankful for our friendly connection during my time of transition. It was a gift, and I’m sure she made countless other customers feel that they were special, too. Then I moved again, and lost track of her.

But two years ago in December, I saw Kaitlin’s winning smile again. Tragically, this time it was in an obituary photo. I learned her last name, and that this vibrant young lady with so much potential, didn’t have all the time in the world. At only 24, she had lost a battle to cancer. I was deeply saddened by the monumental loss of such a gentle soul for all her loved ones. For me, there had been no chance to say, “Good-bye,” or to express my appreciation.

So, Kaitlin Osborne, this long overdue column is for you. It’s also for every barista who tries each day to do more than their job by genuinely caring about their customers, just like you did. Forever young barista, your life truly made a difference, and your kindness will always be remembered. Thanks for taking time to brighten the world, if only for a short while!

 

Christina Ryan Claypool is an Amy award-winning freelance journalist and an inspirational speaker. Contact her through her website at www.christinaryanclaypool.com. Her first novel, Secrets of the Pastor’s Wife, will be released this spring. 

 

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Let’s Keep Talking about Heroin

heroin spoonWhen an individual becomes an addict, they aren’t who they once were. A formerly honest person will lie, cheat, or steal to get their next fix. As a society we must be aware of how desperate this chain of deception can be, and how we can become ensnared in its web, despite our good intentions. For example, recently I was in a local drugstore when a seemingly frantic male approached me holding his cell phone in his hand. He told me that he had just spoken with his grandmother and was terribly embarrassed to ask, but he needed an additional $10.00 to buy a prescription for a loved one. His request tugged at my heartstrings. The young man dressed in a plaid cowboy shirt could sense my ardent desire to help, but what he couldn’t sense is that my compassion was checked by a painful past experience.

Years ago, this same story had caused me to give another stranger $20 to buy medicine for a non-existent sick child. I was a single mom back then, and that $20 was a large portion of our meager grocery budget. I found out later through a reputable source that my hard-earned money was used to buy drugs. My intentions were right, because the Bible says, “…if anyone has the world’s goods, and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him?” Still, I vowed to use greater wisdom. prescription pillsThat’s why I went to the pharmacy counter inquiring if there was a young man unable to pay for a prescription. I wanted to help anonymously, if the need was authentic. The drugstore clerk informed me that no one matching his description or situation had been there.

We have to use great caution continually, since headlines report fatal overdoses in area motel rooms, murders in nearby sleepy villages, and rampant crime everywhere. Most of it is heroin-related. Yet it’s easy to believe that heroin addiction will never affect someone you care about, until it does.

The trouble is that very few of us remain unscathed by this deadly epidemic. According to the most recent statistics reported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there were 5,927 deaths in 2012 compared to 8,260 in 2013. That’s an alarming 39% increase. Over a decade ago, I experienced the loss of a close acquaintance to heroin. Back then, little was known about this cunning culprit. I was confused that its victim, a middle-aged mom who had spent much of her life as a professional woman, had been trapped in heroin’s clutches. Her funeral left many folks searching for answers. It seemed shocking that she had pulled off a double life, but it was not a shock to those close to her. They had lived with the chaos, fear, and unpredictability that loving an addict creates. No one could have forecast this treacherous path strewn with tears and hopelessness. After all, no little girl or boy says, “When I grow up, I want to be a heroin addict.” It must be a parent’s worst nightmare, and it’s definitely an extended family member and friend’s frustrating role. Often, we don’t speak of heroin addiction in our inner circle, lest we shame those already heaped with guilt. We are further silenced by our inability to provide answers.

angel grave marker'That’s why I started reading everything I could about the subject. I even found myself studying the local obituaries of those whose deaths seem to be heroin-related. Of course, it can be difficult to tell. A few months ago, I didn’t have to wonder if the young man with an engaging smile died of an overdose. His obituary read, “… [He] was taken away from us far too soon after fighting a battle for his life against heroin addiction.” My heart broke for his family, but it also swelled with pride that they had the courage to confront heroin head on. Not to bury the tragic truth with their loved one, instead to say that he fought valiantly, but lost the battle.

What that family did was of groundbreaking importance. They called the enemy out, and we need to have that same courage. To keep talking about the existence of heroin in our communities, and to be honest that as a relative, neighbor, churchgoer, or friend, our lives have probably already been personally impacted in some way. The first step in finding a solution is to accept that the problem is closer to home than we care to admit.

Christina at The CarolineChristina Ryan Claypool is an Ohio AP and national Amy award-winning freelance journalist and inspirational speaker. Contact her though her Website at www.christinaryanclaypool.com. She has been featured on CBN’s 700 Club and on Joyce Meyer’s Enjoying Everyday Life TV programs.

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An Obituary’s Message to Call your Mother

Mom, This one's for you!

Mom, This one’s for you!

Earlier this year, my local daily newspaper changed the placement of the obituaries moving them to page two. I’ve often wondered how many other newspaper readers are like me, keenly interested in the obituaries. I also question how my gradual transition from reading the comics as a teenager to devouring the death notices as a boomer occurred. Once, an elderly relative humorously confided that he read the obituaries right away to make sure he wasn’t among those listed. Of course, in case you miss one, you can simply go online and Google the person’s name and date of death. Often you can even post condolences to the family or send flowers if you like. Facebook can be another great way to be alerted to the passing of a friend or former co-worker when someone posts their obituary online. Living in a society that is in a constant state of flux geographically necessitates that we stay in touch electronically.

But what’s so important about an obituary anyway? In explanation, caring about people makes you realize what a vital part that death plays in the game of life. Commemorating those who have gone before us is an integral rite of passage, and being there for those left behind is of paramount importance. Yet, to be there, you have to be informed, thus the relevance of the obituary.

An obituary can tell you a lot about a deceased individual, even when you think you already know them. Then there are times, when you aren’t acquainted, but you are startled by the details of their death and human curiosity and compassion kick in. For instance, when someone young dies, even when they are a total stranger, most people probably lament this untimely passing in a deeper way. We sympathize, because the death of a child is every parent’s worst nightmare, and your heart aches for those suffering this loss.CassieCasket

There is death by suicide, too. An obituary doesn’t usually reveal this heartbreaking detail. However, sometimes you can read between the lines to decipher that for some reason an individual could no longer bear to be part of this world. Other tragic deaths include accidents caused by alcohol consumption or those drug-related, of which there are far too many lately. As with a violent murder, the facts are frequently disclosed in a related news story. Another heart grabber is when several members of a family die together.

No one is spared the pain of burying loved ones, that’s why it’s necessary to be there for those left behind. I learned this valuable lesson in my youth, when a teenage friend committed suicide, and I failed her dear mother who was like a second mother to me. In the midst of this crisis, I disappeared. I didn’t visit the funeral home or call, because I was terrified of dealing with death. It wasn’t death itself that frightened me, rather the fear of saying or doing something wrong, or of not being strong. My misconception was that I wouldn’t be missed, but I was.

Growing up through my own funeral home tour of duty I have come to realize that you remember the faces there, and you are acutely aware of the absence of those who don’t come. It’s a defining moment like serious illness, when you realize who your true friends are. After all, the Bible says we should, “…mourn with those who mourn.” When I do pay my last respects now, I no longer feel overwhelmed by the need to have eloquent words of comfort. I simply say how very sorry I am, and offer a hug, remembering how grateful I have been for those consoling embraces in days past.

I wish I could give Robert Downey Jr., my condolences and a big hug. Sadly, the famous actor lost his 80-year-old mother on Sept. 22, 2014. A few days later, he courageously posted a beautiful obituary that he had written about her on his official Facebook page. He candidly included that his mom’s broken career dreams were caused by alcoholism, something she successfully overcame. He even credits a 2004 phone call from her as the catalyst for his own sobriety today.

Obituaries like Downey Jr.s’ are a startling reminder to the living to appreciate our tragically flawed loved ones. He closes it with the poignant words, “If anyone out there has a mother, and she is not perfect, please call her and say you love her anyway…”

Oh, how I wish I could, but the only obituary I’ve ever written was my mother’s. Still, maybe it’s not too late for you to take the actor’s wise advice and call yours.

Robert Downey Jr.s Mom

 

Click on the photo of Robert Downey Jr.s’ mother, Elsie, to read his touching obituary.

 

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