I was in a crummy mood when I walked into the coffeehouse.
The afternoon had been full of curveballs, and my body and mind were tense and tight.
What can I get you? The guy behind the counter asked. His head was down, his fingers swiping away at the register.
A decaf café au lait, I said. And maybe it was out of vulnerability, but then I asked: Can you make it with extra love? It’s been a bumpy afternoon.
For the first time, the guy looked up at me. His eyes were gentle. Of course, he said. And he said it with a sweet enthusiasm, as if he had been waiting for me to ask.
Hey Ross, he turned to the barista, a decaf au lait, please. Can you make it with extra love?
Ross looked surprised. Then he smiled gamely, nodded.
I put my bag down on a table covered in afternoon light. I pulled out my computer. I noticed my shoulders were lower, my jaw less tense.
Au lait! Ross called out into the coffeehouse. Decaf. Extra love.
I looked up. My body felt warmer, looser. Which, I realized, is what gratitude can do to us.
So there I was, a soul softened in gratitude for two strangers. Two strangers who, for no reason other than human kindness, answered the prayer of another.
Thank you, I said to Ross. And then I sat at a table covered in afternoon light and drank a wonderful au lait.