After we finished our food, we made our way downtown to meet up with four other students in our group. Once we arrived we were given $100 for our service event. The four other students wanted to hand out cards to people with $10 in each one. However, I decided to grab my boyfriend and one other friend to use $40 to buy eight hot drinks at the nearest Starbucks on Main Street. We ordered a variety of drinks such as lattes, hot chocolates, and even caramel apple spices. I figured we could hand them out within three to four blocks of Starbucks because we could find people shopping, eating, or just walking around here.
After all it was just under 20 degrees outside, so I thought it would be easy to find people to give warm drinks to. So we got the drinks and started our journey in the cold.
We came up to the first elderly man who was poorly dressed. He was sitting on a bench watching the cars pass by. We thought he would enjoy a warm drink on this cold day. My boyfriend approached him asking, “Would you like a free Starbucks drink?”
Much to our surprise the man turned us down. We were confused, but shook it off and found the next person. The following individual we passed was a middle-aged man who seemed to be running errands. This time I approached him saying, “Sir, would you like a drink?”
He briefly looked at me and then kept moving. At this point we were all quite perplexed.
Time after time we would offer drinks to people and get turned down. They would say things like “I only like black coffee,” “I’m too busy,” “If it was a cold brew, I’d take one.” At this point we’d been wandering the streets for about two hours. Our hands were numb and we were ready to give up. It seemed almost pointless to continue in the cold. However, we were determined. So we decided to walk over to the bus station where we could find more people wandering around. We came across a variety of people, from those waiting to catch the bus to others who were potentially homeless.
Soon after, almost every person we asked accepted our offer. Many told us about their past and how grateful they were for just a small drink. One man explained how he was a military veteran struggling to find a place to call home. Many were quick to confide in us simply because we were being thoughtful. The last man we handed a drink to was leaning against the bus stop sign. Once he accepted the drink, the man and my boyfriend shared a hug. He then told us that he hasn’t felt valued like that in years.
Even though we had many people turn us down, we were finally able to hand out all eight drinks. It was through this process that I realized it doesn’t take a lot to make someone’s day.
I would never have anticipated learning so much by just handing out free drinks to people. Nevertheless, I didn’t expect people to tell us about their own problems. Even though we were terribly freezing and could barely feel our hands, we thought that enduring the cold was worth it.
Once I said goodbye to my friend and the rest of the group, my boyfriend and I made our way back to campus where we discussed how great we felt afterwards for the chance to make someone’s day better and to remind them that they are valued.
Mariah Johnson writes from the Pacific Northwest.
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