Tuesday, January 6, 2009

I've Been a Victim of...

... a Random Act of Kindness

Two months ago, I went to the Delaware Book Festival and attended a lecture given by Michael Gates Gill, author of "How Starbucks Saved My Life." Although I hadn't read the book, yet, the description of his story resonated with me. Michael was entrenched in a high-power corporate job as an advertising executive in his fifties when he was suddenly laid off. His attempts at building his own business or finding another job were not successful. He ended up working at Starbucks for an amazing manager who was the complete opposite of anyone he had ever known or worked with. He claimed that he absolutely loved his new job, and realized that he was never really truly happy when he was working as a corporate executive.

Although there is much, much more to this story, what resonated with me is how much happier he was while working at Starbucks earning minimum wage than he had ever been in the corporate world earning six figures. I wanted to hear him speak because I, too, had realized the shallowness and pettiness of the corporate environment. Although I had spent my life climbing the corporate ladder, my illness made me examine truthfully what that was doing to me. Having a chronic illness and severe fatigue made me think about how I wanted to spend the little energy I had every day. Clawing my way through every toxic work-day was not making me happy.

I was touched by Michael Gates Gill's lecture and went up to him afterwards to talk. I just briefly told him my story and how I appreciated what he said, when he put his hand on my shoulder and wouldn't let me leave right away. We walked together to the exit when he offered me a Starbucks card. At first, I thought he was going to give me a business card, but he actually gave me a Starbucks gift card. He told me that I could buy myself a cup of coffee with this card and it would make me feel better.

When I got home, I registered the card on-line and, much to my surprise, discovered that it was worth $100 of Starbucks coffee. I think about him every time I drink my morning brew. Talk about a Random Act of Kindess! I have since read his book and loved it.

So to "Pay it Forward," last night I took my book group to Starbucks and shared the fun of my gift card with them. We had chosen "How Starbucks Saved My Life" as our reading selection for the month and gathered to discuss it over coffee, hot chocolate, and hot cider.

When I got home, I realized how happy the night had made me. I know that fatigue causes me to be joyless too often, but I really enjoyed this night. Thank you, Michael Gates Gill, for your kindness, and thank you my book club friends for giving me a night of fun.


  1. Joan,

    That's a really great story. I too work in the corporate rat race and would love to leave it all behind me for many of the same reasons you cited. My energy is so important and by the time I get home I barely have the strength to help give my sons a bath leaving little to no attention for my wife. It is all terribly frustrating.

    Unfortunately my family and I depend upon my salary and most important my health benefits. I had never intended for my life to lead down this path. I have never been a fan of the corporate structure but sadly it is the only answer I can see at this point. I'm going to have to pick a copy of the book up. Again that is a great post, just kinda thing a guy needs as he starts his day in his cubical.

    Bald Ben

    P.S. happy new year!

  2. Hi Ben - yes, unfortunately many of us have to continue on the path because we need those medical benefits. I wonder how many people would make major career changes if they had "independent" medical insurance?? Thanks for your comment!

  3. What a beautiful story. Thanks for paying it forward.

  4. You rock, Joan! Which is a most high compliment in the tween world I am told.

    I once again regret I will not be able to make the Friday night chat as I will be at work earning my corporate salary (yeah, right...I work in Social services!). One day soon...

    Linda D. in Seattle