It wasn’t long before I found an opportunity to give a little back. The very next morning, I stopped at Starbucks on my way to my office to get my daily coffee. A line of four sheriff deputies was in front of me, and I was pleased to see how the barista interacted with them. She brightly smiled as she spoke with them and gave them a discount. As a sheriff chaplain, I see first-hand what they deal with every day and the rough environment in which they work – they certainly deserved the support that discount showed.

I ordered my usual coffee and paid full price – as I expected to, and as I believed I should. While waiting for my drink, my former high school history teacher (and my school’s girls’ basketball coach) “Coach” Herrick came in and got in line to get his coffee, too. I had interacted with Mr. Herrick a great deal over the years – he’s very well-known in the community and was always very excited to see his former students. I was pleased to see him and talked to him a bit as he waited to order. When he eventually did order his drink, I noticed that the barista did not give him a discount.

Feeling somewhat upset, I marched right up to the counter, interrupted the barista’s conversation with a customer and said to her, “Excuse me, I noticed you gave the deputies a discount for their order – which I fully support. Those men work hard to protect us and others. But this man is a teacher, and he’s someone who truly deserves a discount. If it wasn’t for our teachers, we wouldn’t have any deputies – or even your business executives who build and manage Starbucks, allowing you to have this job and receive the benefits you do. I’d really appreciate it if you could extend this man the same show of support you did to the deputies.”

The barista looked flustered and surprised but seemed to agree with me. She handed the teacher his coffee and refused to accept his money.

Coach Herrick beamed at me with pride. The look on his face alone told me that I did the right thing. He thanked me and told me I didn’t need to do that.

But the way he said it, the way he looked at me – it marked a shift in our relationship. I went from a former student to friend and supporter. I saw how standing up for him made him feel valued, appreciated, empowered, and clearly – a little shocked.

No one had ever done something like that for him before. I told him he was the one who really deserved gratitude. Teachers are usually not acknowledged and appreciated, and so they aren’t used to better treatment like the others.

We sat together and remembered the time he kicked me out of his class. He sent me to my school counselor because he wanted the school to place me in a more advanced class that would really challenge me. At the time, I just felt annoyed – his class was easier and involved way less homework! But throughout the year, I saw how his decision really helped me. I learned much more and developed better work habits. I sincerely thanked him for helping me out. As I left to go to work, I told Coach Herrick, “This coffee is on me – thanks for the extra homework!”