Is it just me or is autumn hitting a little bit harder this year? I always find the seasons changing a little tough but on top of saying goodbye to the summer; the Queen has died, and it's rocked the nation. The UK has lost its national face of stability. You'd have to be in your 80s to remember another monarch. The energy bills crisis feels like it's just edging closer and closer. It's getting colder. I've found out my job contract is not going to be renewed, and just to add insult to injury I have come down with one hell of a cold. Christmas is coming, whether I like it or not, and that brings a little more anxiety when I've got two children and an economic crisis on my hands. At this point it feels like the only hope for autumn I have left is a pumpkin spice latte. I don't know about you but even those are tasting different lately.
Take me back to a few autumns ago, I was a brand-new mum in the middle of November with absolutely no idea what to do with myself and the screaming bundle of joy I'd brought into the world. As my coffee-connoisseur mother taught me, when you don't know where to go, find coffee! So, I headed outside and across the road to my local coffee shop. I wasn't ready for the experience to change my life, but it did. The staff were so kind that I began turning up at least twice a week, for a moment of peace and a sense of support during a challenging time. Through the regular visits, I developed a friendship with the manager, the staff played with my children, I've received so many free coffees I've lost count and they always remember my milk of choice (soya if you were interested!). Most recently I went back in after having covid for two weeks and the manager greeted me with a free coffee as a 'welcome-back-into-the-world' treat. Although it may seem a little odd, the staff had become my community and my friends. When I had my second baby, the first outing we had as a family of four was to that very coffee shop.
This brings us to the present day, and now I am an assistant manager at a café. I bake a lot of cakes and make a very good flat white, but our café isn't like others. We run the café for the community, not solely for business. Often, we're giving cake and coffee away for free to brighten the days of those most in need. Most recently, a little girl was in the café with her mother before school and they'd just stopped off to pick up a coffee. I was putting out the cakes and as I placed the cookies and cream cake onto the shelf, the little girl's eyes opened wide and an audible 'wooooooow' escaped her mouth. The next thing I know, I've cut a slice, given it to her to take away with the instructions that she's only allowed it after school, when her mum says so and that it's already paid for. It was worth it for the little girl's joy. Another mum commented that they come back to our café because our staff make them feel seen and heard. To be known by name is a powerful thing. That's why I work there, for the moments of joy I can give to other people, and it is because of the example given to me by my local coffee shop. I know first-hand what a difference it can make to a person; that free coffee, that smile, when they remember what milk you have in your coffee, when they know what name to write on the takeout cup without asking!
In this season we're all looking for little moments of joy and community, where finances are tighter, and the weather is colder - let us lead our communities with examples of generosity and giving. Be the moment of joy for someone else.
With the start of cold and flu germs flying about, did you know that giving is good for your health? Just type in 'giving and good health' into google and hundreds of articles come up telling you that giving releases your happy hormones, it lowers blood pressure, it's good for your mental health, creates better social connections and some even say it can lengthen your life!1 In the current climate, giving and being generous is a little terrifying. It isn't great for our business to be giving away the cake, but it's not about the money, it's about making those small differences to a person's day. These days generosity is needed more than ever. So, I encourage you, give in the small ways, bake a cake for your neighbour, pay for the person behind you at the drive-thru, cut your parents' grass, smile at a stranger (not for too long though, otherwise it starts to get weird), gift your time and your energy. Do it because it's good for you and do it because it's good for others. I'm not sure I would have applied for my job if I hadn't been given the example of generous giving by my local coffee shop. Remember what you do is powerful. In this autumn season, please make sure to give your daily dose of generosity, as well as taking your vitamin C!