What I’ve Learned So Far
A little over two months in VA and the question is usually…
What have you learned so far?
Well… a lot. This is just going to skim the surface but here’s a bit of an overview.
Bar / Barista
From what a café dos leches is to how to make a double shot cappuccino with extra foam to how to determine the right coarseness of the grinds for an espresso shot, my knowledge base of all things coffee has grown exponentially. Words like portafilter and tamper no longer make my head spin and steaming milk to the right temperature and consistency no longer gives me anxiety. I’ve “successfully” made a painfully weak chai latte for my boss and so now I will never make that mistake again. While all that is not saying much since my knowledge was prettyyyy limited, I’m impressed with myself nonetheless. If I can learn these things- anyone can! (Cue casual hint to anyone who may want to join me in this endeavor ?).
Kitchen / Cook
If we head into the kitchen, I’ve learned what’s easy to make, what’s a pain in the butt to make, the intricacies of the cooking, heating, and cooling health code requirements for foods, and have gotten into a rhythm of determining when things need to be defrosted and cooked based on when certain items are going out and how much time is left until closing (circle back to health code requirements). Inventory is another delicate dance that keeps you on your toes but I have yet to tackle that one.
Market / Shop
In the market/shop, I’ve learned how important that form of supplemental income is, a general idea of which products sell well, and how much work it takes to know when to order items, how many to order, and where to order them from. This is another area I’m looking to dive a little deeper into.
Something else that I’ve witnessed throughout my 2 months is employee relationships with each other, with customers, and with management. Even in different fields, much of it has been very similar. It’s been really great to see how certain needs, crazy scenarios, and let’s call them opinionated customers have been handled across the board by the staff. From fridges breaking down to a light switch catching on fire to staff not feeling well during their shift, there’s never a shortage of thinking and problem solving on your feet. It calls you to a new level of selflessness and self-giving. But there’s also been the less stressful, more life-giving moments as well. Such as, the invention of fun new drink flavors to seeing the absolute glee on a customer’s face as they rave about the curried chicken salad or the encouragement amongst staff when sales are way up that day and praising how well everyone handled the influx of customers.
As an employee who is new to the café, new to the industry, and only staying for a limited time, I’m trying to do my best to soak up everything everyone is showing me. Interestingly, sometimes that leads to me asking questions about things that haven’t been thought about, done, or explained in a long time. This has led to some great conversations and learning experiences for me and other staff members. I’m recognizing how easy it is to fall into a routine that isn’t quite meeting the standards we’d originally set for ourselves at the start or even how some of those standards may prove unnecessary after all. In such a fast-paced environment when there’s always something to think about, this makes sense. Doing those extra tasks or rethinking how to better address XYZ rightfully get pushed to the back burner. I’m seeing how having fresh eyes that require you to slow down and talk through or explain things is such a good thing.
Beyond these practicalities, I had another experience that actually helped me reflect on God’s mercy a little bit more. Back when I was first given this opportunity to work at Trinity House for the summer it was discussed that a month or so in I would be given a promotion to Shift Supervisor. This was something they assumed I could handle (based on my age) and would enhance my experience and reason for coming for the whole summer (based on my desire to run my own café). When I received this promotion, one of my coworkers, who has been working there a long time, was a little frustrated by this.
Now, I understood where they were coming from because I hadn’t earned this promotion in the way most employees would be required to. While reflecting on this scenario, I realized a connection to God’s mercy. His mercy is never anything that we can earn. It’s a gift that is freely given based on His generosity AND on our specific needs for that time, place, situation, etc. In addition to that, His being merciful towards one person does not negate His ability nor His desire to be merciful or generous in anyone else’s life. In all reality, my promotion did not take away from this specific employee’s chances at being promoted. It will, however, have a big effect on me and my own specific and separate mission.
This is the same with God’s grace. Someone else’s grace-filled gift, that I may not agree with based on my limited vision, really shouldn’t any negative bearing on my own life if I’m focused on my mission rather than theirs. I don’t have to understand all the intricacies behind the gift, but I do have to accept that God is the most generous giver and will give His gifts often to those who are open to receiving them (He gives even to those who aren’t- they just won’t receive them because of their full hands).
All this is to say that we waste so much time looking at other people’s lives, wanting what they have or complaining that they don’t deserve what they have, rather than actually living our own. I am not immune to this in any way. In fact, these last few weeks I’ve found myself weighed down by similar sentiments towards others who “don’t deserve” or haven’t rightly earned certain gifts they’ve been given or who may have even squandered those great gifts.
As I continue on this journey to opening a Catholic café, just know I’m figuring out this life just as imperfectly as the next person. I haven’t found my “holy grail” because I’m going after a dream, have seemingly less responsibilities (for the moment), or get to be in new places this summer, etc. My holy grail is not here. It is in Heaven. So, I will be continuing this journey with the goal of keeping my eyes set on the true end- which is not a café, a family, financial freedom, or traveling around the world- but rather on the one place where there is no need for mercy and yet mercy is the only means to arrive there.
How will you focus on the gifts God is giving YOU and how will you go a step further and thank Him for the gifts He’s given OTHERS?