In response to the recent government shutdown, Starbucks has launched a new “pay it forward” campaign. Dubbed “Come Together”, the promotion encourages customers to buy someone else’s beverage and receive a free tall brewed coffee coupon. Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz stated that the campaign provides a way for Americans to “support and connect with one another, even as we wait for our elected officials to do the same for our country.”
Starbucks is hardly a novice when it comes to creative self-promotion. From frappe hour, to treat receipts, to its pumpkin spice lattes, Starbucks knows how to sell itself. Plus, it helps that there are locations on practically every street corner. With over 18,000 store locations worldwide, the coffee chain raked in 13.3 billion dollars in revenue in 2012 alone.
During this headache of economic and political instability, it goes without question that everyone could really benefit from a few extra shots of espresso in the morning. And while it’s doubtful that this promotion will make any kind of political impact in Washington, its core message still rings true: one person’s simple action can inspire a long chain of further actions.
So what is it about this idea of paying it forward that is so appealing? Why do we enjoy blessing strangers, even more so anonymously and without expecting anything in return? Most people would agree that human beings are inherently selfish. Yet for some reason we find indescribable joy in giving. We love that warm fuzzy feeling we get after making someone’s day. And it’s contagious, too. When someone goes out of his or her way to be generous towards us, we are inspired to do the same.
We are broken and self-centered, but we can also be full of empathy and kindness. I don’t think these qualities are just results of our biological make up or social conditioning. I think that our ability to be unselfish and practice good deeds is a generous gift from and a testament to our loving Creator. But that’s just me.
So while we wait for the government to sort itself out, as well as face personal issues in our every day lives, let’s make an effort to practice generosity, even when it doesn’t mean getting a free espresso in return. As Christians, it’s what we are called to do. And generosity doesn’t just include our finances. You’d be surprised at how far something as simple as a smile can go.
So if you happen to stop by Starbucks this week, try paying it forward and see what happens. It’ll make a greater impact than you think. And who knows, maybe (hopefully!) this trend will stick and bring around that Christmas good cheer a few months early this year.