I Like My Coffee Hot

Dear beauty,

It’s not every day I wake up to enjoy breakfast on the patio of a lovely hotel, and not every hotel is as lovely as Tempe Mission Palms. But hey, we’re celebrating my husband’s birthday, so he deserves to splurge a little.

There are so many aspects of this property to love, yet this morning I’m most fascinated by our waiter, David. David did all the normal things you’d expect of someone who is good at his job, yet what sticks in my mind is how he warmed up my coffee. He filled it up but then, for some reason, he asked me to make sure it was hot enough (it wasn’t), and offered to bring a new hot cup. This simple gesture impressed me.

Yes, I do like my coffee hot. And yes, I realize that in comparison to what’s going on in the world: hunger, homelessness, abuse, pollution, and a host of inequities, this is a small matter—miniscule. And yet, I do like my coffee hot. He somehow knew and acted on his hunch.

In college I was a waitress and so every time I encounter someone in the hospitality industry who goes over and above, I long to find my apron and serve hungry people again. But maybe David is showing me something more universal.

Maybe his attention to detail helps me remember the joy of serving others—a feeling that quenches the soul. We don’t have to quit what we’re doing to be like David. There are so many ways to serve; easy ways that don’t cost much time or money. All we have to do is stop, look and listen. Who is standing right in front of us? How might we serve them?

The easiest way to show care for another is when we enter a building. All we have to do is look around to see if there is anyone behind us and keep the door open for them. Nothing says I see you and want to make your life easier than literally opening a door for someone.

I am far from perfect. Sometimes I’m so focused on what I’m doing I don’t notice those beside me when I enter a store, the one standing beside me in line at the post office or patiently/impatiently waiting in the doctor’s office. In so many settings we feel invisible to each other. A simple smile expresses compassion and can lift the spirits of someone having a very bad horrible awful day.

When we look into the eyes of people when we speak to them, we’re catching a glimpse of their soul.  Zig Ziglar used to say, “They don’t care what you know, until they know that you care about them.†The more others perceive we care, the safer they feel. And the safer they feel, the more they open up in our presence. And the more they open up, the better chance we have of serving their needs.

The next time you make a presentation to a group, research them to find out their goals and motivations for being a group. There may even be a goal for that meeting that you could reinforce or support. Even if you have given your spiel a hundred times, your tailored remarks have a greater impact on them—and more importantly, on your perception of them.

As you travel by plane, notice those who might need help. Ask permission to lend a hand, of course, as your offer may be perceived as an intrusion; but even if they decline your assistance, you’ve given them a gift of attention. And if they accept, you have created a sense of a caring community.

While all this sounds nice, the health benefits can be proven scientifically. Research tells us that a feel-good chemical, serotonin, is released in the brain—relieving stress. Who benefits? The person who initiates a kind act, the beneficiary of the kind act and also (a surprise to me) anyone who observes this action. So the next time you see something that “warms the heart,†know that it’s also good for your brain.

So what does this all have to do with David and my hot coffee? In a word, motivation.

His attention to the details of his work motivate me to ask myself how it could translate into my life. He reminds me of a former AT&T executive, Robert Greenleaf, who started a leadership movement by defining the term servant-leader through an essay in 1970: “The servant-leader is servant first. It begins with the natural feeling that one wants to serve, to serve first. Then conscious choice brings one to aspire to lead.â€

Yes, that’s it. David reminds me that true service is not a matter of cold or hot coffee, but in small expressions of empathy as we go about our daily work. In our society, ‘small’ doesn’t make headlines, yet these small acts are the threads in which the fabric of life expresses beauty.

Thank you for making this clear, David! The question remains: How do we each apply the idea of service today? I’m interested in your thoughts. Until next week…
May your service to others build your confidence,


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