Tuesday, April 1, 2008

How Starbucks Saved My Life by Michael Gates Gill

NOTE: This is a secular work... one I thoroughly enjoyed... but there is course language used several times in the book. It is a non-fiction work and I have no doubt the use of such language fits the different situations. However, since most of the books I review are Christian fiction and free of language, I wanted to "warn" any potential readers.

The subtitle to How Starbucks Saved My Life is A Son of Privilege Learns to Live Like Everyone Else... and that is the thrust of the book.

I stumble across a quote that was taken from this book a few weeks ago and the title intrigued me. What I found was a wonderful biographical journey that made me ponder if I am living life in my own little bubble unaware of all that is happening around me.

Michael Gates Gill was reared in a rather affluent home. The son of a writer for New Yorker magazine, it was normal for Gill to meet and socialize with the likes of Robert Frost, Ernest Hemingway, Jackie Onassis and others from the top elite. After receiving an Ivy League education, Gill joined a prestigious advertising firm and embarked on a 25 year trek up the corporate ladder. Over the years he found time to marry and father 4 children, but very little time to actually be there with them or for them.

Then it happened. The firm was bought out and the new owner liked "young." And so at 53 Gill finds himself out of work and at a loss. He tries to run his own consulting firm, but it fails. He has an affair and fathers another child, bringing an end to his marriage and further damaging his relationship with his older children. And then he is diagnosed with a rare, but operable and benign brain tumor that is robbing an ear of its hearing.

Feeling completely down and out, Gill wanders into a Starbucks in his old neighborhood to enjoy a bit of luxury in a latte. What he finds is a job. Not as manager... not as marketing exec... a job at the bottom... sweeping, mopping, serving coffee.. whatever is needed.

And overtime, this now 63 year old white man who is working for a young African-American woman in a Starbucks where he is the only Caucasian and the only person over 30, finds there is more to life than bank accounts, clients, Brooks Brothers suits and all the things he once held sacred.

He learns to live... really live. To SEE those around him.. to care about them.. to listen to them.. to not judge them on appearance... and in the end, despite the hard work and the long hours that his body has to endure, he realizes this is the best thing that ever happened to him.

This story is not all sunshine and roses... there is no sugarcoating... but it is encouraging and uplifting. There is no doubt God was at work in Gill's life and I pray his eyes and heart are open to see that one day.

I also loved all I learned about Starbucks. I am not a coffee drinker and have never been into a Starbucks (shock! LOL!). They are a really great company who respects not only its customers, but also those who work there. Unlike other big corporations who hire part-time to avoid providing benefits, Starbucks offers all their employees benefits and also help to move forward.

I highly recommend this book. I am very glad I read it. I recently found out that it is coming out soon as a movie, starring Tom Hanks. I have no doubt it will be good, but I encourage you to read the book first. There are things that can only be conveyed in print... not on film.

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