What We Can Learn While Waiting for Coffee

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by Halsey Blocher |

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Last week, my mom, brother, and I decided to grab coffee on the way home from picking up groceries. The Starbucks closest to our house has one of the only drive-thrus that can accommodate the towering height of my high-top wheelchair van.

Our order was taking longer than usual, but that was OK. We weren’t in a hurry, and we knew there likely was an understandable reason for the wait. We suspected that one of the machines had malfunctioned while our drinks were being prepared. Not everyone in the line shared our patient pondering.

As we sat in the shade enjoying our conversation, we suddenly heard the unmistakable squeal of tires on pavement. A vehicle sped dangerously past us and around the corner without slowing to look for pedestrians crossing the parking lot.

A moment later, another car pulled out of the line. While this one moved at a safer pace, the driver pointedly glared at our van as they passed. The look seemed to accuse us of being the cause of the holdup.

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My brother suggested that the driver may have assumed our large vehicle held more than three passengers waiting for coffee. This is a possibility, and the van was used as a shuttle before it underwent a wheelchair van conversion.

A closer look would have revealed the wheelchair lift that’s visible through the rear windows. There are also decals on the exterior of the van stating its purpose and alerting people to the need for extra space to safely load and unload passengers in wheelchairs.

Now, we were the only ones left in the line. An apologetic barista soon reemerged from the window to deliver a gift card to make up for the extended wait. Our delicious drinks also came through the window a moment later.

Her thoughtful gesture wasn’t expected or necessary, but it was greatly appreciated. It just goes to show that good things come to those who wait.

I think there could be some valuable lessons to be found in the actions of each person we encountered in the drive-thru that afternoon.

The speedy driver can teach us to slow down and be aware of our surroundings.

This can be applied to many aspects of life, but it’s very important to remember while driving.

I’ve never driven a car, but I’ve had substantial experience with driving a wheelchair. I got my first wheelchair when I was a little over a year old, and my wheels have been my primary means of mobility ever since.

lessons \ SMA News Today \ A color photo from two decades ago of a very young Halsey with her mom at Disney World.

Halsey explores Disney World in her first wheelchair during a Make-A-Wish trip in 2000 with her mom, Heather Dye. (Courtesy of Halsey Blocher)

Operating my wheelchair feels natural to me. It’s like an extension of my body, but it’s much stronger. Like a car, it could injure me or others if I become distracted or let my focus become clouded by frustration.

I know sitting in the drive-thru for longer than planned can be frustrating, but in many situations, remembering to slow down and pay attention to our surroundings can prevent us from unintentionally hurting someone.

The driver of the second car can remind us not to jump to conclusions with too little information.

I’ll admit, we could have misread that stare. I don’t want to warn you about making assumptions and then immediately fall victim to that very mistake myself. I can only tell one side of this story, and all I know for sure is that from our limited perspective, it came across as a silent accusation of something that wasn’t in our control.

In a recent column published by Multiple Sclerosis News Today, Jennifer Powell encourages people to ask questions before reaching conclusions they’ll act upon. Jenn is often the target of hurtful notes left on her windshield by people who see her walking away from her car in the handicapped parking spaces. They don’t realize she has a painful disability, and they respond in anger based only upon what they can see.

Jenn reminds us that we can’t know everything from a glance, and that we should always extend grace.

I hope that people choose not to judge my family and me based on how we need to travel, and likewise, I hope I don’t judge them based on how they look at us.

Lastly, the barista can show us that small acts of kindness matter.

Throughout my life, I’ve been the beneficiary of many kind acts, like when strangers helped get me out of the rain while I was on vacation.

I try to give at least as much kindness as I receive, and acknowledge when people do something thoughtful.

Our barista wasn’t obligated to give us anything extra. She was already doing her job with a friendly attitude, but she didn’t stop there. Her kindness left a positive impact, and I think that’s something we all hope to accomplish.


Note: SMA News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of SMA News Today, or its parent company, Bionews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to spinal muscular atrophy.


Ray Burow avatar

Ray Burow

Great read! Beautifully written and a wonderful reminder of the importance of showing kindness.


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