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Self Preservation at Starbucks

My ears perked up. Michael, the clever barista (with a twinkle in his eye and a knowing smile) in conversation with the customer ahead of me, said, “Magnanimous? Is that a dinosaur?”

When I got up to the register, I told him it was a great line, and that if he didn’t want to tweet it, I would.

It wasn’t only a great line, though. It’s a good question. Magnanimity implies expansiveness, generosity, bigheartedness, nobility. These things seem to be in shorter supply, perhaps than they used to be.

There are days when everyone seems so hunkered down, blinkered, almost as if waiting for one more piece of, well, if not bad news, then at least some additional difficulty. It’s hard to be magnanimous when you’re feeling so small and tight. And it does seem like more of us feel that way more often.

But we don’t want generosity of spirit to petrify in the tar pits of over-busyness, heightened partisanship, constant streams and drips of tweets and texts. It can be a beautiful thing, a spirit of forgiveness and largess that can smooth over numerous small stresses, slights, and sorrows.

No, let’s keep magnanimity nurtured and nimble, more like the early mammals darting around and under the feet of armored behemoths, always looking for a new adventure.

So breathe.

Pick your head up and look around.

Of course, you could be at Starbucks and have a caffeine-only artificially stimulating break, but miss all the other entertainments and attractions there. Like Michael, who’s friendly and cheerful and reading some very serious novels for class when he gets off his shift. Or the moms who come in with their babies for a change of scene, or the group of mostly very tall European fellows who gather in the morning to have coffee and chat in their native language before they gather themselves up for the work day. Or the pack of tween girls who flutter and rustle over a group of tables like so many birds.

Magnanimity isn’t extinct. Not yet. People still help each other out — with napkins for a spill, an extra chair, a friendly greeting. You can too.

Onward and upward,


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