Folks, I’m far from perfect. I have as many (if not more) flaws as anyone else, and I try to live with enough grace to forgive those who are equally damaged. And often, I find that grace through observation.
Today, I observed something that bothered me. I’ll be the first to admit that perhaps it bothered me more than it should have, but nonetheless, it was troubling.
Like most workplaces, there’s a communal coffee station on a little kitchenette in the middle of our office. There are sugar packets, hot cocoa pouches, and tiny creamer cups. And since the majority of my co-workers are as addicted to caffeine as I am, it’s probably the most frequented area in the building.
Though it’s not written and taped to the wall, there is an unspoken rule at the coffee pot. If you empty a pot, you fill it back up. It seems kind of obvious, right? Well, this morning, the clarity of this unwritten rule was put into question.
The coffee pot was nearly empty. I watched as two of my co-workers approached the station at the same time. One of them politely offered the last cup to her colleague, who graciously accepted before walking away. The co-worker (let’s call her Mabel), quietly reached into the cabinet and opened a new packet of coffee. She set the pot to brew while she rinsed a few mugs and wiped down the counter. She was so busy tidying up that she didn’t even notice the coffee was done brewing.
This did not go unnoticed by her colleagues, however. Before Mabel could retrieve her coffee cup, the pot was empty again. Quietly and without fuss, she repeated the process. As the coffee dripped, slower this time, I’m sure, she waited. She smiled at those who passed by, and asked them about their families.
Then came someone we will call Clint. Clint’s the type who claims time is money. He walked by Mabel and looked at the brewing coffee. Next, he did something I’d never seen before:
He pulled the pot out from underneath the dripping brew, placed his own cup under the spout, filled it, then put the pot back.
I was in shock. What in the world? Could he really not wait one minute for the coffee to brew? Could he not see that Mabel was standing there, empty cup in hand? Was his time so important that he couldn’t even acknowledge the person who made his still-brewing coffee?
I was steaming (pun intended, if I’m being honest). Mabel got her coffee. And she didn’t seem to mind the intrusion. But, goodness gracious, it sure did bother me.
It made me realize that we have a choice to make. We can be the person who smiles as we gracefully fill the cups of others. Or, we can be the person who fills our own cup before there’s anything to even offer others.
Like I said, I’m not perfect. But, I at least hope I’m the person who waits for the coffee to brew before filling my cup.