Sunday, July 19, 2009

Sour Coffee Cream, A Sour Customer & A Lesson in Humility

Part 2 of this story series.

Last week.
Global Coffee Café
Quest Community Church.
Lexington, Kentucky.

It was finally time for me to start my training at the Global Coffee Café at Quest Community Church, and I was beyond excited. For months I’d prayed about whether to do this, and now I was finally taking a step and jumping in with action.

To get me started, the team put me on whipped cream duty. My sole job … was to spray large piles of whipped cream atop smoothies and specialty coffees, then look at the person’s name on the cup and call for them to pick up their order. All the while, my whipped cream partner, Debbie, gave me tips about how the entire service line operated, from the cash register, to the barista machine, to the acronyms for each drink, to the final step in the process – the whipped cream on top.

I was having a blast, chatting away with Debbie, smiling at the café customers and calling their names, welcoming the church newcomers and of course … going to town on those smoothies with one can of whipped cream after another.

Then … SNAP.

I was whirled back in time to 1986, to my job as a popcorn shoveler.

“Excuse me, Excuse me!”

The voice was sharp, edgy, angry. It jarred me subconsciously, so much so that my finger pressed down harder on the whipped cream tip, and the sticky white stuff spilled over the edge of the lid.

I looked into the eyes of an older woman, who was very pointedly glaring at me. “What had I already done wrong?” was my first thought.

“Hi! Can I help you?”

“You certainly CAN. Look at this!” She shoved a tall coffee cup under my nose. In the middle of the hot drink was a tiny white swirl, the tell-tale sign of sour coffee cream. “This coffee is SOUR. Look at that! Do you see that? Do something!” She spat out the words, all the time pushing the cup forward, to where I thought she was about to dump it on my shirt.

“Sure! I’m really sorry. This is my first week, so let me find out where to find you some new cream.”

I turned to my trainer, who then pointed me to the crew supervisor, who turned around in surprise. “I’m sorry,” she said to the lady, “We thought that cream was okay when we put it out this morning. We’ll get some new cream for you.”

While we waited for the new cream, I asked the lady what type of coffee she had. I dumped her cup, found a new one and went to the thermos marked decaf. She watched me as I filled it.

“Not to the top! Not to the top!” she barked. “I don’t want it near the top! I need room for my cream!”


I backed away and gingerly handed her the cup, afraid that if she grabbed it too hard it would knock out some of the hot fluid. With one hand she took it, and with the other hand, she picked up the thermos containing the offending cream.

“Here,” she said, “Get rid of this. This has the bad cream. Never put that out again. You can’t put out sour cream for people!”

The crew supervisor reappeared with a fresh carafe, apologized again, and the lady filled her cup to the top, then left without another word.

Before I turned back to my little whipped cream job, I stood statue-still. I couldn’t believe what had just happened. And I was right back in the movie theater again, that 21-year-old college senior working hard for her tuition, trying hard to please people and feeling like I had just been beaten up as a servant.

Then … HE spoke to my heart.

“This is what it’s all about,” He said to me.

“What, Lord?”

“Being a servant. It’s easy to love people who love you. It’s easy to love people who are polite. It’s not easy to love people like that, is it?”

I realized, no, it wasn’t. But He kept at me.

“But that’s what I call you to do,” He said. “Love them. Love all of them. Be a servant to them. Will you willingly be a servant? Will you be joyful about serving them? You can lead many like her to Me.”

He was standing there, right there with me in the Global Café at my elbow, whispering in my ear, waiting for me to tell Him that I would be willing to do what He had done – to serve those who did not love as He loves.

“Yes,” I said. “Yes, and WITH JOY. Yes. Thank you for the opportunity to do this. I am so excited and thankful for it!”

My heart had changed!

I saw that no longer was I feeling like an oppressed child – I was a strong daughter of a King, a King who served His servants, a King who asked me to serve along with Him. I no longer needed the approval of others to feel self-worth, because He gave me all that I longed for, all the value I ever needed.

And as for those who would bark out orders, who would treat me as a lesser person, who would be angry and impatient … well … all they needed was some love.

Because after all … that’s what He had done for me.


  1. ...i wonder..if it would have been more beneficial in the long run to the woman..if you had gently and politely in a Christ-like demeanor pointed out her unnecesary rudeness?..if done in the right "spirit" it becomes a defining moment for BOTH sucessfully chasten or correct another with Christ-like gentleness yet firmness is a measure of spiritual stature...and Love has no relationship to civil kindness or politeness.......imho.

  2. Hi Anonymous, and thanks so much for your insight. It is a good one.

    There were two things at work in that situation ... One was that I was at a loss -- and if you read part 1 of the story, you may see why I couldn't quite think straight to respond in that particular manner. :-)

    The second thing is that the coffee shop really isn't about serving coffee -- it's about serving people with grace and love who are perhaps darkening a church door for the first time in their lives. It would be okay to confront a fellow believer with the approach you wisely suggest. But I would have no way of knowing if that person professed faith, not knowing her at all. If she happened to be one of the people who had never been to church, and I as the "church person serving coffee" pointed out her rudeness, I run the risk of alienating her from coming back.

    That said ... the coffee team leader decided I wasn't really right for the team, so I won't be able to volunteer there anymore. However, I have found another service team at Quest, which you will read about in the entries, "Mission Impossible."

    Hope you have a great day! Thanks so much for your comment and constructive thoughts.

    God bless!