One of the perks of my current office location is the well-appointed kitchen and tearoom. It’s not just the pleasant views as you eat, or the social atmosphere, I’m also a pretty big fan of the coffee machine. I am definitely not a morning person and see a coffee as an essential start to the day.
There is one downside to the coffee machine, however. It uses a separate jug to froth the milk, which requires cleaning afterwards. That is not a problem in itself—it’s a small price to pay for the privilege of having a coffee machine. But it has a tendency to accumulate a layer of milk scum at the bottom and if it isn’t cleaned properly straight away it becomes harder and harder to remove.
I am aware that in the scheme of things this is a very minor problem, but it got me thinking about how it, in its insignificant way, it illustrates a greater truth.
There are so many things in life where it’s easy to take shortcuts, or exert the absolute minimum effort required. It can be easy to justify because it doesn’t seem to hurt anybody or have any real consequences. The reality is, though, that it does—we just don’t have to deal with them.
For those of us sharing a tearoom it might be little things such as not cleaning the coffee maker, or leaving dirty dishes in the sink. Elsewhere, it could be dumping rubbish instead of binning it, or not cleaning the public barbecue after we are finished. It might be not returning your trolley, or not helping to pack up after an event.
What all these have in common is that the work we choose not to do doesn’t just disappear or do itself, it just means someone else has to do it—and usually it’s the people who are trying to do the right thing.
I’ve been on both sides of the equation, so I am certainly not making any claims to righteousness. I know there are plenty of times where I have been lazy, where I couldn’t be bothered to do the work and left it for others. But I’ve also been the person who has done the sinkful of other people’s dishes or packed up a church hall while everyone else is doing the fun stuff.
That’s why, when I go to make a coffee each morning and find a stubborn layer of milk caked to the bottom of the jug, I let it be a reminder that there are consequences to our actions. Hopefully, it’s another way coffee improves my day—and my life!