It’s Just Coffee, Except It’s Not

You must be the change you wish to see in the world.
Mahatma Gandhi

Jeannie grew up an Army kid, moving from town to town, country to country. She told me the story of how, when she was younger, she could literally fit all of her belongings in to one suitcase, because they moved a lot and there just wasn’t room in the car for a lot of unnecessary things. She eventually served as a nurse in the military, and then as a nurse in the public sector. She retired from nursing, if there is such a thing, and came to our department as a retiree looking to spend some of her free time and make a little spending money.

Jeannie’s work kind of kick-started our department’s work every day. She completed the first task that gets the rest of the department rolling through the day. She was the pin-setter, or maybe that’s a bad analogy, but the point is that she was at work early. She was there a 6AM, at least an hour before anyone else.

About half of our department arrives at 7AM, me being one of them. It’s really not fun getting up at 5:30AM to be at work at 7AM, but the payoff is that I can be home in time to actually play with the kids in the afternoon, or make it to those 5:30 games and practices without rushing too much. I began noticing that, on the days Jeannie worked, there was hot, fresh coffee available in the break room when I arrived in the mornings. In addition to her actual work, Jeannie would make coffee in the morning.

But here’s the kicker, Jeannie didn’t drink coffee. She just made it. She made it for us, so that our tired, grouchy selves could have a hot cup of coffee waiting for us. She honestly and genuinely just wanted to do something nice for others. Every morning, around 6:40, she would go to the break room, put coffee in a filter, put the canister in place and press the start button. Then she’d go back to her desk and work for a few minutes before going back to the break room to make a pot of decaf.

She never had a drop of it. She had Diet Coke instead.

She retired for good a couple of years ago to travel the world with her husband. Well, to travel to parts of the world that didn’t have “Fort” or “Base” in the names, because she’s already seen most of those. They planned trips to Tahiti and to Europe and to all points in between. There isn’t a day that I walk in the break room to empty coffee canisters that I don’t think of Jeannie and her generosity. One kind act, a lasting impression.

Go be kind.