Spreading Kindness One Cup At A Time

June 15, 2017

This week, I am filling my social media feed with joyous pictures of the incredible Born This Way Foundation team sharing Cups of Kindness, explaining our mission to the Starbucks customers, trying on green aprons, and making funny faces in Starbucks stores across the country.

I am so proud of our partnership with Starbucks and so grateful to our fearless leader, Lady Gaga, for her vision and passion and bringing this partnership to life. I’ve tried to write a sentence more than once that starts with “why this matters to me..” and it has been a hard sentence to write, so I just posted another cute picture.

The Starbucks partnership matters because the words that you see every day matter – the ones on signs as you cross the street, on menus as you order your coffee, and on Saturday morning adventures that you have with your kids. If there is one word I want to see more of in this world, it’s kindness and I’m glad that more than 12,000 stores across the country (and Canada!) have kindness on the menu this week and brought to life by the incredible talent of their baristas.

The people reading those words matter.

For me, kindness is part of my every day language. I feel it when it’s present and I know how to find it when it’s not. For many people, kindness is not part of their every day vocabulary and hopefully, this partnership can help change that – for people who deserve to be celebrated for their own acts of kindness or who are desperately seeking kindness for themselves.

Let’s start a conversation and a morning cup of coffee seems like a great place to start.

The incredibly generous donation that Starbucks is making to Born This Way Foundation matters. It matters because it will enable us to support the incredible work of young people through Channel Kindness and help us continue to lift up stories about kindness, mental wellness, and positive environments.

For me, celebrating inside of a Starbucks matters for a different reason. I am the proud mother of two incredible children. My son is a curious, intelligent, kind, athletic, sweet boy. He is my sidekick; he travels the world with me and sits on stages while I give speeches. He encourages me and together, we seek adventure and create memories. I could not imagine a world without him and he has made me a better version of myself than I could have ever imagined possible.

When my son was born, almost five years ago, I thought I was prepared. I had dragged my husband to every class our hospital had to offer and I had read every book in the Parenting section of our local bookstore. I had a Pinterest board, a baby book, and some breathing exercises. I was ready.

The days and weeks following his birth proved that I needed more than books, pinned images, and lactation consultants to survive. I wasn’t filled with joy. I wasn’t filled with anything. I was numb. I watched my life from the outside and slept every moment I could and if I happened – by some unfortunate circumstance – to be awake, I cried. I cried endless, confusing tears.

My husband, Dave, texted his friends and googled variations of “when will I get my wife back.” For both of us, each day felt like an eternity. Dave encouraged me to call my doctor and through sobs, when the doctor asked me if I wanted to hurt myself or the baby, I said “I want to walk out of this house, and back into my old life. I want to leave.”

Those are the hardest words for me to type. I know one day that my son will read these words and have questions and I know I will tell him, as I’m telling you, that I was sick. I love him more than I ever knew was possible, but I was sick. I had postpartum depression and in that moment, I could not understand or control what was happening to me. I am fortunate because I have resources – in every definition of the word – but my resources couldn’t prevent the depression, they could only help me and those around me survive it.

Three weeks after he was born, my husband and my wonderful mother in law encouraged me to leave the house for the first time. It was my 29th birthday and I hadn’t eaten, showered or gotten dressed yet. I didn’t know where to go, so I went to Starbucks. I walked in, carrying the bucket seat, followed by Dave and his mom, who watched me cautiously, aware of how fragile I was. I ordered my usual – a tall, dry cappuccino with one pump of raspberry.

That day was followed by many more trips to Starbucks, even venturing alone after a couple of weeks. Most days, I would sit and cry, or read a book, or stare at my beautiful son and wonder how I was going to be the type of mother he deserved. I would promise him that together, we would figure it out and emerge stronger. I left the house, I sat in Starbucks, and I felt like I was going to be OK.

My work at the foundation is about kindness, to yourself and to others, and it’s about reducing the stigma around mental health. It’s about the power of community, wherever you might find it, and it’s about the brave steps that we all take each day to care for ourselves and for those around us. Our work is about the power of our stories, individually and collectively.

So, go to your local Starbucks and order yourself – or someone else – a Cup of Kindness (the Violet Drink is my favorite!). And then post a picture on social media, sharing why kindness matters to you.

Tag @BTWFoundation and we’ll be sending one of our classic “Be Kind” shirts to those with our favorite stories.

Together, let’s raise money for our incredible mission and please – for my son – let’s not forget about where the money goes, why the foundation exists, and the lives – like mine – that are saved by our work.

— Maya Enista Smith, Executive Director