Beliefnet
Daily Joys and Simple Pleasures

I used to write at a local coffee establishment. “The Beanery.” They were mad for coffee and the bulk of the baristas were passionate about all things coffee. There was a way to tell: their passion translated into the perfect cup of coffee. Or, it didn’t. The butterscotch colored froth on top that announced a perfectly brewed cup of espresso was the first indicator of excellence. Taste followed. There were days that I consumed a beverage of less than stellar quality. And some few days I asked them to “try again.”
You may be familiar with one of my poems,
“courage doesn’t always roar. sometimes courage
is the quiet voice at the end of the day saying,
‘i will try again tomorrow.’”
It is one kind of matter to personally decide to try again. It’s all about personal accountability and a dedication to giving something a fresh shot in the invigorating light of a new day.
It’s another matter to ask someone else to try again. Another matter entirely. There are all kinds of issues rolled into this – it’s the reason why people will endure one of the worst meals they’ve ever been served and vow to never again frequent that particular establishment.
Whether it is personal or public, the chance to “try again” is an opportunity. When an eatery is consistently not getting something right and no one says anything…how do they know? Absent honest feed back a restaurant learns too late the areas they need to improve. Business rolls back and they end up closing their doors.
On the rare occasion when I would trundle back to the coffee counter and gently announce, “I know how you feel about your coffee so I thought I’d better tell you this one was not quite right.” In all instances that I can remember, they were so appreciative. Asked me for more information and conducted a staff process assessment right in front of me. I watched as the discovery unfolded: a missed step, a piece of equipment not quite tightened. Fortunately for me, their objectives matched mine – we all wanted the end result to be an ideal cup of coffee. Not a pretty good cup, or a “close enough” cup – but as close to perfect as we humans get to come in such things.
There’s a very tentative line between going with the flow and simply tolerating something. I understand the line for me and this is what it looks line. I would not ask a barista to “try again” if I were served a wretched cup of coffee while traveling and having discovered a coffee bar out in the middle of between here and there. Nor would I send food back to the kitchen in such an establishment. I do not know them. I’m not vested in their process or success and I know that, like me, travelers don’t come specifically to a place like this, they stop here on their way to somewhere else. In that context, “good enough” is indeed good enough. In instances like these I go with the flow. Accept what comes and call it good. Enough.
Tolerance. Or in this line drawing, intolerance. I speak up when the consequences matter to me. When I know the owners and want them to have continued success. I share my experience when I know the objective and goals of the establishment.
The request to “try again” works for me when core values are shared. When there is a mutual view. In this context the request in an invitation to greater performance.
When core values are not shared the request becomes a judgment and often the beginning of a disagreeable exchange. Even disintegrating into an argument. Often this type of exchange ends with, “I was only trying to help,” and hurt feelings on both sides of a counter.
So this morning as I am again enjoying the environment of a coffee house committed to excellence I remember this lesson. In reflecting I realize this is an effective measure for many different relationships. In a friendship, when the foundational intentions are shared – such exchanges become opportunities for shared growth. In associations where the core intentions are dramatically different – such a request becomes fodder for a fight.
I sip my delicious cup of java, put down my fork next to a delectable gluten-free scone which I’ve nearly finished and am grateful that I have opportunities in my day, in many venues, to “try again.”

*****

– mary anne radmacher’s poem, “courage doesn’t always roar” is included in the Oxford Dictionary of American quotations and finds uses around the globe. It is the title of two books and is quoted in dozens of other publications. Visit her facebook space – facebook.com/couragedoesn’talwaysroar.

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