a personal collission of coffee, christ, and culture

Barista…Maturity…Progress…

There is this feeling that we get at times that hits us hard. Its a feeling of development, maturation, and continuance. Perhaps continuance is a little off. Continuance signifies an “ongoingness” but what I want to convey is growth; suppose the best term to use is progress.

That’s a bit how this past week has felt as a barista. Its kind of fun to talk to people about what I do. The question is posed, “What line of work are you in?” I shoot back, “I’m in the coffee industry. I work as a barista.” Sometimes I get a chuckle. Sometimes a cute little stare. Sometimes a blank face because the term “barista” is not well known. Even now, spell check tells me that it is not correct. So I explain that I am a coffee maker. Lattes, cappuccinos, and the like. I work behind a bar and make drinks for people.

Beneath those stares, and chuckles, and blank faces, I often get the idea that there is not a lot of respect being shown to my line of work by the general populace. I was there too once. Often you find baristas working behind the bar, who also have their hands in some other jars as well. I, for instance, am a pastor at a church. I think that “other” occupation gets the bulk of attention from our customers.

“Gotcha. So you are a pastor who makes his money by working at a coffee shop.” The sentence itself is a bit misguided. It assumes that even I disrespect my role as a barista in favor of my role as a pastor. Not only that, it assumes that I do not have a role, I just “work at a coffee shop.”

This past week the SERBC was in town. That’s the Southeastern Regional Barista Championships for all you non-Coffeephiles. I attended some events associated with it as well as the competition itself. I was astonished by the entirety of it all; the passion, the commitment, and the professionalism.

I say bravo to all industry professionals that were in town. Seeing competition is great. I love competition. It always improves you and causes you to excel. But I really wish people could come take all of it in. Normal people. The customers that I serve daily. To many, I am sure, it just looks like a competition; a chance for coffee shop employees to spread their wings for a weekend and add some undeserved gravitas to their position. But seeing the dedication and genuine care that baristas, shop owners, and roasters show for their industry, an industry that they believe in, is wonderful.

I have seen it in how they carry themselves. I have heard it in their speech. Most of all, I have felt it through being around so many people that are drawn to something larger than themselves.

They are drawn to the coffee industry. Its an industry made of people. Yes, there is espresso. Love it. Prize it. There are lattes. Incredible. But before all that there are people. There are farmers all over the world. There are people who work directly with them to understand their work and facilitate harvesting their crop. There are buyers and coffee companies. There are roasters. There are baristas. There are customers. There are so many people connected.

Its an industry full of humble people who love excellence. That is such a powerful force. I think a passionate driving towards excellence is often attributed to the prideful. But excellence driven by humility… that is a site to see.

I hope that humility defines my pursuit of excellence also. I know that I can get proud at times. I know where I excel and I know where I want to excel. I had a conversation this week that ended like this: “There is no room in this industry for people who are only concerned with their own little slice of the pie. If you do that, your slice is gonna go stale.”

I don’t want my slice to go stale. I don’t want to be driven by an understanding that I am better than everyone else. That I know more. Of course there will always be times when I know more than someone else about a subject, but in no way does that necessitate that I feel better, or more deserving than someone else. Humility trumps pride. It comes out on top because it invites others to the top. It has room for more. The pie always expands. You know that when more people get to the top, if more people succeed, then the pie expands along with them.

Maybe through the pie expanding, our individual slices will expand also.

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One response

  1. “We do not want to be beginners [at prayer]. but let us be convinced of the fact that we will never be anything but beginners, all our life!” -Thomas Merton

    I think this quote applies in a lot of aspects of life. As I was running the other day, for example, I realized how much of a beginner I am at running and how far I have to go. I will never move forward if I keep looking down on those who run slower/less/not at all/etc.

    February 14, 2011 at 7:56 pm

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