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Brewing Relationships

There was a time when I had a policy against going to a certain, well-known chain of coffee shops. I didn’t much like their brewed coffee and, more nobly, I wanted to support local, independent shops.

Then, one day a few years ago, I was having one of those days where everything goes wrong. Topping it off was a half-hour bike ride downtown in 35C weather, to an interview I was stood-up for. The ride home was long and hot, with long portions of riding uphill. I was tired. I was cranky. I was a little bit misanthropic.

When I got home, I found something sitting in front of my door that completely changed my mood around. It was a little packet of ground coffee and a card from the aforementioned coffee shop, saying that they had just opened up a new shop in the complex directly behind my place and wanted to make friends with the neighbours. Inside the card was a coupon for a free drink and an invitation to visit the shop.

“You are my friend!” I told the little packet of coffee, heading into the house to brew myself a cup.

Not only did I visit the shop shortly after, I’ve been visiting it – and it’s numerous brothers and sisters – faithfully ever since.

I’ve been thinking, lately, about relationships and how they tint our experiences, for better or for worse. This plays out most obviously in businesses. Most often, we call it “service” – good service or bad service – but what it really comes down to is a relationship.

We all have stories. Waiters who weren’t paying attention and got our orders wrong, and then reacted haughtily when called on it. Store clerks who went to great lengths to track down a product for us, and then gift-wrapped it, too. While there are other factors that can influence our feelings toward a business, it often comes down to how we are treated. And how we are treated, or served, can make all the difference in our opinion about a business.

Of course, business and service industry people would be quick to add that it works the other way, too. There are customers or cliental that can make your day just by coming in, with or without a purchase, while others might bring big revenues but make your life miserable.

It comes down to this: How we interact with people has a profound impact on the quality of our life, and the choices we make. And on the lives and choices of others.

Not surprisingly, the Bible has lots to say about this, from stories about relationships – between people and nations – to advice, direct from Jesus himself.

“Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets,” he said in Matt. 7:12.

If an interaction with a store clerk can make or break your loyalty to a store, how much more significant are our interactions in a spiritual setting – whether at church or elsewhere as representatives of Christ?

In Ephesians, Paul writes that we should, “walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called.” And in case there’s any doubt as to what that involves, he elaborates: “with all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love; endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” Eph. 4:1-3

As I learned that hot summer day, so many years ago, the littlest gestures can have a lasting effect. On our relationships and on our destiny – or someone else’s.

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