Compassionate Breakfast

According to Wikipedia:

A meal can be considered breakfast if it satisfies 2 of the following 3 criteria: 1. It is the first meal of the day 2. It consists of “breakfast style food” 3. It is eaten before noon.

There are plenty of references to breakfast being the most important meal of the day. After all, you are breaking a fast that lasted since the previous night’s dinner. (“Since six o’clock last night, you haven’t eaten a bite…” — from a Saturday morning cartoon that used to air when I was a kid, featuring some small blob looking guy in a top hat singing and dancing in a refrigerator.) If I skip breakfast, I’m miserable way before it’s time for lunch. Usually a simple bowl of cereal with some fruit added is enough to do the trick, possibly accompanied by a protein drink.

Some mornings, as much as I value a good breakfast, it’s tough to squeeze it in and get to work at a decent hour. I’m not much of a morning guy, preferring to stay up late rather than rise early, and often my morning can be a balancing act between getting enough sleep, good nutrition, taking care of the random morning crises (work related or otherwise) and actually getting myself out the door. Breakfast can be even more tentative when my wife Suzanne is out of town, which is frequent.

Enter Jamba Juice. I started frequenting one particular location during my morning commute, and I guess one would call me “a regular” now. I feel a bit like Norm from Cheers. Everybody there knows my name. They also know my juice, and it’s usually sitting on the counter in front of me by the time I reach the register. The team there always brightens my day, whether it’s just a cheery “Hey, Doug!” or enthusiastic support for Suzanne’s work in Belarus.

This morning they named me Customer of the Week. Seems like a simple thing. It doesn’t take much work on my part; I just get out of the car and hand over some cash. Still, for reasons not completely clear to me, I was really touched. I filled out a form and they took my picture for the Customer of the Week bulletin board. It’s only a week. I’m not the first Customer of the Week and I won’t be the last. Why was I so touched? Could it be I’m just missing my wife, who I haven’t seen for a week and won’t see for a few more days, and I’m craving attention? I don’t think so, as I’m not much for seeking out attention (although the act of posting this on the Internet and using a domain that is my name might suggest otherwise). Could it be the few free smoothie cards I received? Nah, the dollar amount is a drop in the bucket compared to what I spend there.

I really think it’s the genuine kindness demonstrated by the Jamba Juice team. Sure, they are just doing their jobs, but with so much hate still filling so many lives, so much negative news on TV, so many instances of needless suffering throughout the world, it doesn’t take much for us to be moved by kindness. It’s actually amazing how easy it is to spread a little kindness and compassion. It strikes me that naming someone Customer of the Week isn’t really all that different than the work Suzanne is doing in Belarus. Sure, the scope is about as different as the Grand Canyon is deep, but the intent comes from a similar place. To quote Suzanne:

If we knew we didn?t matter to anyone ? really, what would be the point? Everyone needs to know that someone cares and is happy they are alive.

Showing that one cares can be as significant as traveling half way around the world to help childeren in a radiation exclusion zone or as simple as saying we want to take your picture for regularly coming into our store.

I just recently experienced another situation where kindness had a poignant effect. This past weekend, my brother and I traveled to North Carolina to visit Dad. On my Southwest return flight from Raleigh to Pheonix, I snagged good seat near the front of the plane next to the window — perfect for my plan to sleep through as much of the flight as I could. If you are unfamiliar with Southwest’s “cattle call” seating method, this is not always an easy feat. On top of that, nobody took the middle seat. This is close to perfect in the Southwest cross country flight world.

Just before take-off, the flight attendent announces that a woman and her five year old daughter cannot find a seat together, and would anyone care to switch seats. Flipping through a magazine, I don’t pay too much attention at first. Besides, they are all the way in the back of the plane.

After a few minutes, the announcement is made again. This time it catches my attention. I offer my seat, since there is an empty one right next to it, pick up my carry on pack and head to the back of the plane; the very last row in the plane, as it turns out. No big deal. Cute kid, frazzled mother — glad I can help. As I walk down the isle, I am a little surprised to get a few pats on the back. Literally, a couple guys pat me on the back. Then someone starts clapping. Within a few seconds, there is a full round of applause going on as I take my seat at the rear of the plane. The flight attendent offers to buy any drinks I would like during the flight (and if it were not an 8:00AM flight, I would have graciously accepted at least one), just for “helping her out.”

I was not the only passenger sitting next to an empty seat, so I have to wonder, a) Why didn’t anyone else give up their seat? and b) Why was I treated like I just pulled someone from a burning building? Are we really that starved for kindness? Are demonstrations of compassion and genuine caring for others really so rare? My own experience in being named Customer of the Week suggests yes, kindness and compassion are so lacking in our daily lives that even small examples can have a moving effect.

So thanks Jenny, Brianna and the rest of the Jamba Juice team in “my store.” Naming someone Customer of the Week might seem like a simple thing, but the attention and recognition came from the heart, and that’s what touches another’s life.

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