About a week before the Women’s March on Washington, I was feeling overwhelmed… friends had shared their safety concerns regarding marching in D.C., and the reality of what would happen after inauguration began to really sink in. I knew well that the march was not going to be an arrival point, but rather a starting line. The work seemed insurmountable and I was emotionally drained.
On this particular day, I was heading to the GYN for my annual exam. I arrived about 30 minutes early and decided to hit the nearest King Soopers Starbucks for a cup of mint tea. Being new to mint tea and not a regular Starbucks customer, I didn’t know how to articulate my order. I wanted it minty, but not too minty… sweet, but not too sweet.
As I approached the Starbuck’s counter, it became clear that the barista was on overload. She avoided eye contact for a few minutes, said a few things under her breath, and seemed rather huffy. My mind said, “great, this is going to be a ‘fabulous’ customer service experience. Hold on for the ride.” When I told her my hopes for the perfect minty cup of tea, she patiently explained why the Jade Citrus Mint Tea would be just what I needed. The perfect mix of citrus and mint.
While she clicked my order into the register, it seemed like she was about to start crying. Her face was reddish purple and the stress lines on her forehead were turning white from pressure. By that time, I wondered if she was in physical pain or something serious. I took a chance and asked her if she was ok.
With tears streaming down her face, she said “I want to call the cops. I feel that I’ve been kidnapped and I’m stuck at my job. I have so much to do. I’ve been here since opening and I can’t get it all done. Here’s a sticky note from last night’s barista.” She handed me the sticky note which read:
Sorry! I had to leave an hour early.
I know the place is in shambles.
An emergency came up and I had to leave.
I will be late in the morning.
I’m so sorry!
After I paid, she stepped aside to brew coffee for customers who were lined up ahead of me. I heard a guy holler “Great cup of coffee! That was the perfect amount of espresso!” To which she replied in a comforting tone, “I’m so glad you liked it. See you next time.”
Her emotions seemed to range from “I’ve got this thang” to “help, I’m completely overwhelmed and I don’t know what to do!”
In that moment, I realized that I was watching a living metaphor of my life. The political landscape is like a war zone right now. There is so much to do, and some days I don’t know where to even begin. On top of that, there’s no way I can do it myself. At times, it feels overwhelming and there are moments when I’m even tempted to crawl under a rock.
As I watched and engaged with her a bit, I said “don’t worry. Just do what you have to do in this moment. That’s the best you can do, right now.”
As soon as those words spilled out of my mouth, something clicked inside of me. I realized that I had just articulated an answer for myself.
Do what you have to do.
Do your best right now.
Those words set my spirit free. I realized that I don’t have to take on the entire world. In fact, in that particular moment, I could do something meaningful for something happening right in front of me.
I walked over to the gift aisle and picked up an inspirational card. Then, I grabbed a $25 gift card to Gordman’s. I realized that in that moment, I could be a kind stranger to someone struggling. In my zest to head to march in D.C., I had almost forgotten how important the human-to-human contact can be in our lives.
I anonymously filled out the card, let her know that her work mattered, and thanked her for introducing me to the perfect cup of mint tea. I also wrote down that seeing her struggle reminded me of some important lessons in self care that I needed to remember in my own life. Specifically,
- Take a breath
- You can’t do everything at once. Prioritize.
- Take care of what’s most important in that moment. The rest can wait.
- Remember that you are not alone. Help will surface in meaningful ways. Be open to receiving help from family, friends, and strangers.
- A cup of tea can literally change the trajectory of someone’s day.
As I sealed the envelope, I saw that she was removing her smock and getting ready to clock out. When she came from behind the counter, I handed her the envelope. She burst into tears, and I asked her if she needed a hug. “Yes please!” As we embraced, she looked up at me and said, “When someone is supposed to show up, they need to be there. They need to show up. People are counting on them. It’s the right thing to do.”
Honestly, those words from this stranger helped me reach a new level of clarity with regard to this human rights movement that I’ve stepped into. We don’t have to do it all. And there will be hard days. However, people are counting on us to “show up”. Lives literally depend on it.
I didn’t sign my name to the card, and I don’t expect to see that barista again. However, I think of her from time to time and remember the importance of “showing up” daily. In the midst of the work we are continuing to do with the organizers of the Women’s March and other progressive groups, we must also show up daily to those who are counting on us. For me, that includes:
- Listening attentively when my teenagers need to talk about school, friends, social struggles, current events, and their views on politics.
- Carving time to spend with my husband. We’ve been together 25 years and investing in meaningful relationship time is critical to us making it another 25 years.
- Checking in with friends regarding their life outside of politics (there’s still day-to-day job stress, financial hardships, health concerns, faith struggles, and good times to be had). Maintaining these personal connections is deeply meaningful to me.
- Doing some legwork for friends who want to be civilian activists but have a more limited schedule: adding helpful links or phone numbers to posts on social media so that their words can help others take easy action; or inviting them to events or activities that are already in the works so that they can easily join in the effort.
- Injecting light in the midst of the barrage of “more and more work to do”. I think it’s important to help my community of civilian activists celebrate milestones and wins. Kind of like the volunteers who hand off water at marathons, I want to help refresh the energy around the movement going on in our country. We really are in the midst of a long marathon, not a sprint.
I hope some of what I’ve shared somehow resonates with you. As you move forward in your life’s journey, remember:
Don’t worry. Just do what you have to do in this moment.
That’s the best you can do, right now.
Sending peace and light and love. Stay strong, take care of yourself in the journey, and accept love and kindness in whatever form it takes.
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