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Bye Bye Barista

Kathleen Kohler

James prepared a vanilla steamer while my husband, Loren, relayed details of our recent road trip following the Oregon Trail.

"Hi guys," Kathryn said tying on her apron, getting ready for the day's work at our favorite bookstore café. Stepping closer, she leaned over the counter where I stood waiting for my tea and lowered her voice. "Because you two are long-time customers, I wanted to let you know that August second will be my last day."

"Really?" No doubt my expression revealed shocked disbelief. "Where are you going?"

Her whole face lit up as she shared her plans. "First, I'm taking three weeks off to rest. Then I've booked a three week tour of Europe." Her shoulders lifted and she clasped her hands together. "I'm going to England, France, Spain …" Her feet barely stayed in contact with the floor for all her excitement. "When I come home, I start a new job at a local hotel's front desk."

Now, I'm not one of those people who embrace change on a whim. Though I was thrilled for Kathryn about her trip to Europe, her announcement had rocked the natural order of my world.

For the past six years I had seen Kathryn and James at least once a week. It all started when my mom came to live with us for a short time. My two-hour visits to the bookstore were like a mini-retreat from the everyday pressures. Each Thursday afternoon Kathryn greeted me at the café counter with those sparkling Irish eyes and bright smile. "Hi, Kathy. Will it be Hot Cinnamon Spice or Earl Grey today?" she'd say grabbing a sixteen-ounce cup. "And would you like the lemon bar or chocolate chunk cookie with that?"

When Loren and I left the bookstore after Kathryn's news, all I could think about was how her leaving would affect me. Her cheery greetings and our casual conversations provided a respite during a stressful stage in my life. I know it's not like we're friends that will call each other and get together for a visit over lunch. But our weekly chats meant something to me. And I was going to miss her. Not to mention she knew exactly how many seconds to heat my cookie in the microwave, enough to soften the chocolate chunks, but not dry out the cookie.

Fifteen minutes into our drive home I was still lamenting the imminent change when the Lord whispered to my heart, "Why can't you be glad for Kathryn?"

Oh… yes. Kathryn. Until that moment when the Lord grabbed my attention, I hadn't even considered what this change meant for her. Maybe her new job offered regular hours, better benefits, higher pay, and an opportunity to advance in a career that interests her.

Wow. When did I become so self-centered? I'd always been sensitive to other people's needs. Perhaps learning to manage my own serious health diagnosis and helping extended family members had made me less understanding of others. I deplored the thought. And there was only one place to turn. "Lord, please forgive my selfish attitude."

Then I prayed for Kathryn, for the rest she needed from working, for safe travel on her grand tour, and for the Lord to bless her in her new job. And I wondered, did that hotel know what a gem they were getting?

As I finished my prayer I realized the Lord was providing me an opportunity to get acquainted with a new person the next time I stopped by the bookstore café.

**Note: "Bye Bye Barista" first printed July 2014 in LIVE a publication by Gospel Publishing House.

© 2014 Kathleen Kohler