When Ryan Estis encountered Lily Olsen, working as an airport barista, she gave him an unexpected serving of happiness that changed his life.

Many of us have fond feelings for the barista at our favorite coffee shop, but how many of us can say that their barista set off a seismic change in their life?

That’s the story Ryan Estis shared about Lily Olsen, a barista works out of a Starbucks in the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport.

The unforgettable cup of coffee

Estis, a business growth consultant, encountered Lily at her work and has been so impacted by her that he felt compelled to share his experience with the world.

Estis will never forget a cup of coffee he had when he interacted with Lily in that airport terminal on Christmas Eve, when she took the time to warmly greet him, introduce herself, and ask his name.

Hi, my name’s Lily… What’s your name?

It was more than about making a great cup of coffee or giving service with a smile– Lily took the time to talk to him and ask him about his day, where he was going, and actually showed genuine interest and care in her interactions with him.

Unbeknownst to Lily, Estis’ father had been diagnosed with a terminal illness. When he met Lily, he was heading home to spend a final Christmas with his dad– and he had no clue their conversation would change his perspective on life.

Who is Lily?

For over two decades – and that’s a long time to be at any job! – Lily has worked as a shift supervisor and barista at that airport Starbucks, taking the time to smile and greet every passenger and customer as they pass by.

What is your secret to making such meaningful connections over serving coffee?

Some might see being a barista as merely a stepping-stone to pay the bills before you join the big leagues, but this is the kind of job Lily has wanted her whole life.

“My dad had a store when I was growing up in Indonesia and I loved being able to talk to the customers every day,” she said in an interview with the Minnesota airport’s website.

Lily moved from Indonesia to the United States 25 years ago, and two short years later she found her calling as a barista.

I’m not serving coffee, I’m pouring happiness into people’s lives.

“I love to see all of the people come and go. There’s a lot of energy in the airport and it feels like a community—we’re all family here. There are so many different people from different countries passing through, and I want to hear all their stories about struggles and happiness.”

The impact of the people we overlook

One of the reasons many of us love to travel is we love to hear people’s stories and see how they live. The same experience can happen just by observing other people travel while staying in the same place… especially if that place is an airport coffee shop!

“Making people happy and building connections is my passion in life. I treat them like kings and queens so they come back again to see me. I want to learn their orders and personalize their drinks so they feel special. A smile goes such a long way!” said Olsen.

What we can learn from Lily

It wasn’t just providing great customer service or making delicious drinks– for Lily, her job is also about creating memories and making a connection with people. It’s about choosing to show up every day and make a meaningful impact in the lives of others whenever you get a chance. It’s about pouring happiness.

Lily is someone we can learn from in a big, important way.

As we go about our days, we interact with so many different people just trying to do their jobs, and often something like an airport coffee experience can seem forgettable and unimportant.

But when someone takes the chance to make interaction meaningful, by truly hearing and seeing you– that’s when lives can really change.

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