I read something this morning on a social media site that had me shaking my head. I’ll go you one better; it had me feeling a bit sad about my absolute favorite time of every year, and that’s Christmas.
Of course, “Christmas” means that time period between midnight October 31 and midnight December 25 these days. Oh, I know that there are grouches out there who complain about rushing the holiday, or combining Thanksgiving and Christmas, but I look at it this way. I love both holidays, so I can combine them both if I choose.
What I read on Twitter was that there is a movement out there to give the folks at Starbucks an earful, because their coffee cups this year are red. I have no idea what color they were last year, but there was something that one gentleman in particular wrote that bothered me the most. I’m paraphrasing here, but the gist of what he said was that the change had him so angry, that he is going to wear his “Jesus” t-shirt into the store to make the employees feel uncomfortable. He is so angry that he is going to tell the barista that his name is “Merry Christmas,” just so she’ll have to write it on his cup.
Yes, reading this nonsense made me sad. Oh, I’m not a fan of Starbucks coffee anyway, so that’s not what bothered me. I am, however, a Christian, and reading the stuff that people were writing was upsetting to me. Here’s why.
I have learned to temper my own temper with a simple litmus test. As the risk of sound like a ‘90s cliché, I ask myself “WWJD?” For those of you who weren’t around in the 90s, it means, “What Would Jesus Do?” And I have to tell you, I don’t see Jesus waltzing into a Starbucks store with a t-shirt with his own name on it, telling the barista that his name is “Happy Birthday to Me,” just so she’ll have to write it on his cup.
I mean, these are my beliefs, right? I actually don’t see Jesus walking into a Starbucks at all. I feel like He’d patronize one of the many cool, indie coffee shops around town, but again, that is my own belief. I sure don’t see Him trying to antagonize someone into belief, into submitting to worshipping Him. I don’t see Him trying to coerce anyone into following Him. Not His style.
What I do see Him doing, if there was absolutely no place else to buy a good cup of coffee, is walking into a Starbucks and taking a place at the end of the line, likely giving up His spot to any elderly person or to anyone else, just to show kindness. When it came time to order, I see Him politely ordering a cup of whatever looked good to Him, and giving His true name to the barista. And in that span of time, I see Him saying something kind to her, and maybe asking her how her day has been unfolding so far. I then see Him leaning in and genuinely listening to her reply.
As He sat at a table in the busy, noisy coffee shop, I definitely see other customers being drawn to Him, whether just to say “hi,” or whether they needed to unload their cares on the kind-faced man seated at a table for four. He chose that table not for his own comfort, but for those who felt compelled to sit with Him and talk, or maybe just to sit with Him.
My point is that we Christians can not expect those who do not believe the way we do, to live the way we’d like them to OR ELSE. Rather, I believe that an act of kindness or an encouraging word wins people over. I believe that a smile and a kind word go a long way in anyone’s world, and I know for a fact that browbeating people gets us nowhere, fast. I believe that judging others at all, harshly or otherwise, says more about our character than it could ever say about the other person’s.
So, am I rushing Christmas by writing about this now rather than in December? No, not in my opinion. In the interest of full disclosure, however, I feel that I must disclose that I wrote this in a little independent coffee shop that often serves as my “office away from home” when I need it to. I was also wearing tiny earphones that delivered Christmas music unto my ears the entire time, and I write that last with pride and joy (and cheer and mistletoe).
I love Christmas but more importantly, I love what it means. I love the reason that we celebrate it. And I love when I catch people being kinder than they might normally be, or more cheerful than they imagined they ever could be, at this time of year. I just don’t think that it’s an accident.
And I have to say that if I should ever, for whatever reason, walk into a Starbucks coffee shop and see a kind-faced stranger sitting alone at a table, you can bet that I’ll speak to Him and wish him a good day. And if something is weighing heavy on my heart, I feel pretty sure that I’d sit down and talk to Him about it. And I feel pretty sure that that talk would make things better.
Carole Townsend is a Gwinnett author and freelance writer. She writes about family, from both a humorous and poignant perspective. Her newest book, MAGNOLIAS, SWEET TEA AND EXHAUST (July 2014, Skyhorse Publishing) takes a look at NASCAR from a Southern suburban mom’s perspective. She is currently writing her fourth book. Carole has appeared on local and national news and talk shows, including CNN, ABC, CBS and NBC affiliates. When not writing, she travels throughout the region, speaking to various civic and literary groups, and advocating for the health and well-being of the family, particularly women and children. For more information, visit www.caroletownsend.com.