The Power Of Compassion
Does the title sound like a self help book?
Oh good...there’s an introduction to my sense of humour.
So, shall we begin?
I caught up with a friend recently who I hadn't seen in maybe three years. There are moments that occur every now and then in life where perhaps the extent to which we have changed becomes- smack in the face apparent to us.
We were waiting for coffee at Climpsons in Spitalfields, I was being a typical barista and showing off my knowledge of all of the things. (Stop talking about coffee already...) We got to the modbar...She asked something along the lines of “what’s the point in it?”
And so started the discussion on customer- and more so human interaction. Specifically how much it means to me and how important I believe it is- how much I enjoy it. Not in terms of service, although of course that plays a natural part. But on a human level.
Something along the lines of -
“Even the proper arseholes don’t really bother me as much anymore because- I know it’s not about me” ...”if you can change the way a persons crappy day is going, why wouldn’t you?”
I don’t take it personally anymore when people are obnoxious especially - generally, I am only human after all. But it’s not just the bad, but the good as well- it is outside of me.
There are regulars, who of course visit and are happy to see me- but they are not specifically there to see me. They are there to take a moment away from whatever life they are living outside those cafe walls. Escapism, enjoyment, to talk or not be talked to (can we please for goodness sake respect when people don’t want to engage in small talk with us!?)
People want I believe, to leave feeling something different than when they walked in. Whether it’s better, important, soothed- whatever.
Those few moments have power.
To me compassion has become the most important aspect of service. To both customers and to myself. Because who doesn’t need it? Good day, bad day...compassion and kindness make everything better- even if it’s not immediately apparent.
But what’s my point?...
My friend recalled one of the main reasons I became a barista. I’d had enough. I wanted to hide behind a coffee machine and avoid people.
They were rude, they scared me, I was awkward, shy and defensive. Talking to customers was not something I enjoyed except on very rare occasions and I saw those as anomalies. The very thought of that interaction was something I dreaded.
That girl, ahhh that girl. She is long gone.
Though I was aware that I had changed I didn’t realise quite how drastically. Working in this industry, at a time when service changed for baristas- we had to come out fom behind the machine where it was safe and warm...Being skilled, and gaining confidence in that skill- having people newly introduced to specialty coffee intrigued to discuss it with you. It became escapism for me too.
It’s changed the way I perceive not only myself but all those around me.
We all struggle sometimes.
And sometimes when we are struggling we walk into a cafe and need compassion- whether we realise it or not. Sometimes people will talk to us in a way that does not readily invite it- and that’s when we all need it the most. To me that sums up why I am still so in love with coffee at a service level. Because it’s about people. Because in the space of a few minutes you can create change. To me coffee itself is kindness.
You never know how big an impact even just a genuine smile can have.
And I don’t give a shit.
It’s nice to be nice.