Thanksgiving has come and gone, but since gratitude knows no season, I'm sticking with the theme.
I stopped at this coffee shop near Luzerne County Community College the other day, and before placing my order (typically a large coffee, black), had to inquire about the little white pumpkin sitting by the register.
"What's this?" I asked co-owner Brian.
"Why, it's the Grateful Pumpkin," he responded, which made me laugh. Partly because he knew he didn't have to add, "Charlie Brown" — he trusted me to get the reference — but also because the name of the coffee shop is "Grateful Roast."
I've been a regular at Grateful Roast since they opened three years ago. Or, gosh, is it four? I'll have to ask next time. How much of a regular? Well, every time you make a purchase there, they give you an electronic star. Ten stars and you get a free coffee. But I don't cash them in. Instead, I'm letting them build up. So far this year I am at 56. And keep in mind, I'm not at the college during summer. I tell Brian and his wife and co-owner Sarah I'm waiting until I hit 1,000. "Then we'll just give you the place," Brian says.
Grateful Roast is aptly named because every time I walk in there I am grateful it exists. I'm always telling Sarah and Brian they have to remain in business at least until I retire. As long as I am at the college, I want Grateful Roast across the street. Their coffee is the best. Why wouldn't it be? They roast and grind their own beans. But so are the "sammies." I'm always torn between the gouda/turkey and the herbed tuna melt. Then there's the avocado toast, with that sunnyside-up egg on top. And I frequently bring home soup for Mary Kay. Most recently, it was roasted cauliflower.
I so want Sarah and Brian to always be there that I constantly introduce new customers to "The Roast," as my students often call it.
One way is to make it an assignment for my advertising students. Advertising, I tell the students, is problem-solving, and we're going to do ads that solve a real-life problem for a customer. Then I hold class at Grateful Roast where I buy a round of coffees, or lattes, or cappuccinos, and have Brian explain his problem: every year a bunch of his regular customers graduate from the college and move on; and every year a thousand new students arrive who've never heard of Grateful Roast.
When the ads are completed, I print them in color and present them to Brian and Sarah who select the one they like best and award a gift certificate to the designer. I call it education at its best. I also call it insurance that Grateful Roast will stay in business.
Now, back to the little pumpkin.
It was about the size of a softball, maybe a bit smaller, and as I said, white. Or cream in color, if you prefer. What caught my eye however, were the words written all over it. Closer inspection revealed they were things for which people are thankful. "Friends" and "trees," for example, and "love" and "children."
Brian gave me permission to pick it up, and as I twirled it around in my palm, I saw "holidays" and "sports" and "payday," which made me smile. And "computers," which made me wonder. I read "dogs" and "cats" and, naturally, "coffee." And "holidays" and "deer" and "education," which I found gratifying.
"Friends" and "children" and "love" and "trees" were naturals. So were "soup" and "tacos," given where we were. But "licorice" proved to be polarizing, prompting lively debate.
I was back at Grateful Roast last Saturday to have lunch with old friend Joe Aquilina and a student he had asked me to assist with scheduling. The little pumpkin was still there and the young lady working the register handed Joe a Sharpie and suggested he add a word. He immediately noticed "music" was missing and promptly found a spot for it.
Ironically, I, a man of words, could think of nothing. But I have since. If the little pumpkin is still there on Monday, I am going to add the word "you."
Who's the "you" to be thankful for?
Whoever reads it, of course.