How many times have you overheard nasty conversations in public? Maybe the people were gossiping about a mutual friend, or spreading a rumor that they had heard from someone else. You feel the need to step in or somehow say something to make the people aware of her ridiculous and petty they sound…but at the same time, it’s technically “none of your business.” Most of the time, we just walk away. If it’s really bad, we might say something as we walk away. But one woman had enough. She wrote them a letter, and bought them some coffee.
“This morning, I sat at a table at my local Starbucks and I listened to three very pretty, very boisterous, horribly behaved young teenage girls at a table near me.
When they complained about the crappy presents people had given them in the past, “I swear, it looked like a used water bottle,” I began to squirm uncomfortably in my chair.
As they bashed some poor girl named Catherine who “wanted to be the lead singer, but we took a vote and everyone wanted me instead, so sorry Catherine – you can be the manager,” I glared at them, but it went unnoticed.
I fantasized about turning to them and telling them to stop. But instead I hemmed and hawed, hoping at any moment one of them would say something nice and redeem themselves, supposing maybe I was misunderstanding them… but, you know, that’s not how these things go. They fueled each other on and laughed louder and complained more. Finally, I couldn’t take it. I left to do my grocery shopping.
I drove by the Starbucks again on my way home, and saw them still sitting in the window. I raced home, ran into my house, grabbed a note card and wrote a quick, heartfelt note.
Then I ordered three mini frappuccinos on my mobile app and headed back up to Starbucks. They were still there. I walked up to them and said, “Hi Girls. You don’t know me but it looks like you’re here studying and I wrote you a note of encouragement.” I handed them the card and walked away. (The drinks weren’t ready, but the barista agreed to delivering them for me.)
Here is what I wrote:
I sat near you today in Starbucks and listened as you talked. You three are obviously pretty and hard-working. I wish your kindness matched your pretty exteriors. I heard you talk about a girl who sang a song about being lonely in the talent show – and you laughed. About a girl who couldn’t be lead singer because you got all the votes, about crappy presents other people have given you…and you sounded so mean and petty.
You are smart and you are pretty. It would take nothing from you to also be kind. – M.”
Possibly they laughed and ditched my note in the trash along with the frappuccinos. Or, they may have gotten defensive and complained to each other that I was a total over-reactor, and they didn’t mean what I thought I heard. And perhaps it’s true that I overstepped my bounds, but I have to believe that there is still room in our village for lessons from strangers with good intentions in their heart. I didn’t want to shame them out loud or put them on the spot. But my hope is that maybe, just one of them was only going along with the others, and tonight she will think about that in a meaningful way as she’s falling asleep.”We could all have used a letter like this, growing up. This was a brave move on her part, and I completely understand how she felt. It wasn’t her place to say something, but if it could save just one of those girls from becoming a horrible person, she had to try. Right? Many comments on the photo think she shouldn’t have mentioned that they were “pretty,” but she defended her wording because that might be the only way those girls could identify with her advice. What do you think?
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