The man was red in the face, the veins in his neck pulsating wildly and he continued to shake his finger. “I said NO foam on the latte, not extra!” he snarled at the rather bemused but otherwise unbothered barista. At 8:45 a.m., this was probably not her first encounter of the day with a dissatisfied customer who was positively irate his latte was not without foam. It most likely wouldn’t be the last of the day, either.
We’ve all had our coffee orders screwed up before. We’ve also probably been in the barista’s shoes before, messing up something we typically don’t. We all have busy lives and places to be—but is it worth it to take additional time out of your day to scream about foam topping on your overpriced coffee drink? Look: You don’t have to answer that. I know caffeine can elicit all forms of passion from people. But as the weather gets a bit colder and days a bit darker (both literally and metaphorically, RIP American politics), I find myself trying to kinder, gentler, and a little more grateful. The coffee conniption was unwarranted, and the man could have been late for a very important, career-altering meeting and couldn’t be slowed by the foam.
But maybe give time to acknowledge you could afford a $5 latte—and that you HAD some place to be. It’s November, which begets Thanksgiving, which begets gratitude. And when we count our blessings, it usually involves family, health, job, and home all generally work their way into the mix. But the smaller things typically fall by the wayside.
Living in LA, I sit in traffic nearly every day. My commute is a long one because of my quest to live and work in every part of the city, and I complain about the traffic as often as I sit in it. But I have a car, and it’s a hybrid. Not only am I lucky enough to have a vehicle, but it’s an economic one at that. We joke about “First World Problems”—“My WiFi isn’t fast enough for me to stream my shows…#firstworldproblems”—but the fact is it’s not only impressive that you have WiFi at all, but a computer. According to the latest statistics, 78.6% of the population in the U.S. has a computer with internet. Compare that with Africa’s 15.6%. As of 2013, 34.3% of the world’s population has access to the internet—far less than half. Let that fact run through your mind the next time you’re taking a quiz on Buzzfeed to find out holiday cocktail you might be.
Before you get all “Way harsh, Tai” on me, let me remind you I am equally guilty of not fastidiously counting the abundance of good things in my life—internet and all. Chances are tomorrow when I get in my car, I’ll still silently (or not so silently…) curse out the Prius that cuts me off in traffic or continually gripe about a spotty WiFi connection, but before I totally lose my cool and take out my grievances on the closest customer service rep, I’ll try to focus on all the good, no matter how big or small. We shouldn’t treat gratitude like a winter coat that we try on once a season—feeling a little extra smug as we drop our spare change into the salvation army cauldrons. Gratitude doesn’t belong to any religion, political party, gender or person. It’s just simply an acknowledgement that life—YOUR life—is good.