BreadBox Leadership



Coffee Cup Sleeves


There’s a coffee shop 30 minutes from my house that makes incredible coffee. Starbucks doesn’t even compare. This place is literally amazing. It has a bright, energetic atmosphere, fresh coffee brewing every five minutes, and decent places to sit. By far one of their greatest assets as a coffee shop isn’t their atmosphere, friendliness or even their coffee. It’s how they put others first.

On a wall near the entrance, there is an entire wall with framed cork boards and coffee cup sleeves tacked sporadically to them. Each sleeve has something written on it, describing a person, job title, situation, or hardship someone might be going through. The purpose of these sleeves is to buy someone a coffee who might need a little love and kindness. It’s an amazing idea and I wish I thought of it myself!

I spend a good 15-20 minutes each time I come to this shop looking at the coffee sleeves. In the beginning I did this selfishly, hoping I’d find a sleeve with “large chai tea latte for a ginger who burns easily in the sun” written on it, but for some reason could never find that one. Now, I do it to see how people have used money to show putting others first is a huge priority for them, even if they don’t get to see the result or reaction to someone un-tacking their coffee cup sleeve and trading it in for delicious hot beverages.

One of my favorite sleeves on the board today says, “anything for someone going through chemo treatments xoxo”. It brought tears to my eyes to read that one. Another favorite, clearly written by a child, “one cookie for a kid that has autism and is scared and loves computers”. I’m not crying, you’re crying! One more: “large coffee for anyone with a SERIOUS case of diarrhea” I swear I didn’t make that one up.

What’s the point to all this? In a world full of hate, disagreement in political policies, cultural differences and anything else you can think of, people are still trying to put others first. It’s a difficult thing to do when you’re consumed with always being right or wanting to have your opinion heard. It’s a lot easier to buy a coffee cup sleeve for someone to show them someone out there loves them and understands where they are. And it feels really good, too.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: the greatest leadership lesson of all time is to put others first. Always. Jesus did this, Mother Teresa did it, Mister Rogers did it, and countless people before us did it. Our culture teaches the exact opposite of this lesson and tell us “it’s all about how YOU feel and what YOU want”, but that’s just a bunch of hogwash. Putting others first is the greatest tool to recognizing how human you are, how broken you are, and how special you are. If this world was all about you, it’d be a pretty miserable experience for you and everyone around you.

Next time you’re in line at Walmart and a customer in front of you forgets their wallet in the car, just step up and pay for their stuff. Or when a car breaks down on the side of the road, be the .001% of people that stops to help and assist them. Or when your elderly neighbor is struggling to take care of their lawn, just step up and do the work for them without telling them or asking for anything. The more we put others first, the better leaders we become. You may think putting others first has to be a huge gesture and massive amounts of effort, but it doesn’t. The simplest forms of servitude can make a world of difference.

It’s pretty amazing that a coffee cup sleeve has inspired me to write this post. Who can ever say a coffee cup sleeve was their inspiration for anything?! But I think that’s the beauty of serving others. When you put others first, it shows the rest of us humans the world is still good. If putting others first is as simple as a coffee cup sleeves, I think none of us has a good enough excuse not to do it.

 The wall of sleeves

The wall of sleeves