On Mondays, I spend my late morning and early afternoon hours working at my dad-in-law's coffee shop. When I first started working there several weeks ago, it was hugely nerve wracking. For one thing, people can be very particular about their coffee. I am not one of those people (we don't even brew coffee at home), but I know they exist. Serving people a latte felt like a high stakes wine tasting event, but substitute the wine with coffee, and substitute sophistication with caffeine addicted neurosis.
Also, providing people with a product--which they have given you real money for--is a bit out of my frame of reference. I don't view teaching like this at all. I certainly try to give them an excellent "product," (and they have paid a great deal more than $4 for the class) but it's a different kind of service. My students may complain (they don't, though, because they're lovely people), but they'll come back the next day. They'll come back because they have to, because they are personally invested in the end goal: getting an education and a college degree.
It's weird, isn't it, that I'm more nervous about delivering a fancy drink than delivering a lecture? Coffee is relatively small potatoes compared to a college education, but there you have it. When someone gives me $4 I start to sweat; when someone gives me two grand (figuratively) I'm exactly where I need to be.
Yesterday, at the shop, a woman came in with her laptop. I could tell pretty quickly that she was a bit frazzled. She gazed up at the drink selection, and started confessing her weekend. Too much to do at work. Time spent with friends that wasn't encouraging. Late night with her 2-year-old daughter. "You know that feeling of the world is crashing down on you?"
Yes, I told her, I do. And there we stood. Talking about parenting. Talking about our girls. About the need to breathe deeply. She got an Oregon chai, and sat working at a table for the next couple hours. Before she left, she said, "No matter how terrible it gets, I have my daughter at the end of the day. She's--" she paused in a moment of joy, "--she's everything."
We took a deep breath together, and I wished her well.
An hour later my mom called the shop. My grandma--not the one who lives here on the Family Farm, but my dad's mom who lives in town--had been admitted to ICU. Diabetic coma. Prognosis not good.
And I had the feeling of the world crashing down on me.
I visited my grandma at the hospital today. Held her hand. Told her I loved her. Told her that she was the grandparent who laughed and made me laugh more than any of my other grandparents. The machines clicked and beeped. Her eyes flickered open and shut.
When I drove into the driveway, Sydney was waiting for me at the door. "Mommy!" she yelled.
I just hand out coffee on Mondays, but yesterday--talking to a fellow parent whose daughter made the burdens of the world feel a little lighter--a stranger across the counter handed me the words I needed to hear.
Turns out I was exactly where I needed to be.