Lessons from the Coffee House

by Annie Prasad, Volunteer
After a year of absolute intensity at Princeton, I came home to San Francisco, planning on working a 9-to-5 and partying with friends, relaxing before I went back to my sleepless college lifestyle. 3 months later, it didn’t quite work out like that, and this is why.
It’s funny how fast things change. I had volunteered at GLIDE the summer prior, albeit sporadically, but never in the coffee house. Honestly, I hadn’t even known it existed. Day one of this summer, we were assigned to this mysterious coffee house. I remember almost nothing from that day except for Curtis yelling at me from a chair every time I did something wrong, which was evidently a lot. In that moment, if you would have told me that in two weeks, I would be working 7 days a week, hanging out with Curtis and James outside of work, and wanting to quit my day job to work full time at GLIDE, I would’ve laughed and said you were crazy. 6 weeks later, and here I am.
(Pictured right: Annie & Curtis. Pictured below: Annie’s brother, James, Annie & Stephen.)
There are moments when I have felt frustrated with my work at GLIDE. It has been early in the morning, people are demanding, it’s too crowded, we run out of something early…the list goes on. The reason why these frustrations seem so inconsequential to me was not clear until very recently: it is because the people around me know me. A simple “thank you” or a “smile, beautiful” from a client or a hug from a fellow worker makes it worth it, and in that instant, everything is alright again.
The thing about GLIDE that makes it so special is that everybody has a story – something secret that requires you, if you are so inclined, to get to know the person on a deeper level in order to truly know them. For me, getting to know the people around me at GLIDE has become a priority – from the people I serve at the coffee house to the security guards to the people in charge upstairs – I want to know the people that are part of an organization as great as this one, whether it is knowing what a client is allergic to, or the name of a security guard’s child. Because in the grand scheme of things, it is that deep understanding of another person’s hopes, struggles, and livelihood that allow true empathy and unconditional love. It is this knowledge that allows connection with people, putting aside preconceived notions, stereotypes, and judgment.
I went to SpeakOut on Wednesday, and I saw a man cry of happiness because he was finally able to afford Direct TV. I haven’t seen anything as beautiful in a long time. GLIDE has inspired me to make an impact on each person I interact with, no matter his or her past, present, or future. I am not a very religious person, but this unconditional love thing is an amazing feeling to share. Besides, you never know the impact one person can have on you.