Holiday season is officially here. Halloween and fall themed paraphernalia have disappeared, and in their place, winter holiday mood sets in. The infamous indicator of the arrival of the commercial winter season, Starbucks, decided to try something a little different this year. Instead of decorating their winter red cup with Christmas-like designs, the company left their red cups blank, plain and simple. It’s likely that they wanted to keep the recognizable tradition of their holiday-themed cups, but left out the designs that labeled them as a Christmas-only company (even though they do still have their “Christmas blend.”) As an artist myself, I’d like to think that Starbucks is encouraging us to create our own holiday cups, decorate them ourselves, and really create something special.
But instead of spreading holiday cheer for all the different celebrations this season, many Christians are upset that the cups aren’t “Christmas” this year. Many of you have already seen the video of the man who was so angry about the cups that he went into his local Starbucks, bought coffee, and told the barista his name was “Merry Christmas.”
“See? I tricked you guys into writing Merry Christmas on the cup!”
Going into the Starbucks and buying their coffee, giving the company money. Yes, I’m sure you tricked them, sir.
But isn’t the point of the season, no matter what holiday you celebrate, to spread happiness and to give? I identify as an agnostic, but my family and I do celebrate Christmas. This doesn’t mean I’m even slightly upset about the cups from Starbucks not having designs on them. To be honest, I didn’t even notice until someone pointed out this whole uproar to me. Because there are more things worth getting upset about and wanting to change as winter sets in.
Here in Pittsburgh, winter can get bitterly cold, to the point where I don’t even want to go outside, and yet there are people who are forced to sleep on the streets no matter what the weather, and don’t know where their next bed or when their next meal will be. There are those who are in desperate need of good samaritan behavior from those who have the ability to give back. If you can complain about the design on your coffee cup, I’m sure there is a little room to spare for those who have nothing. But most of the time, we choose not to notice these people, even when we walk right by them.
I sat down with a few homeless people I saw while walking around the downtown area; I bought each of them coffee from Starbucks and explained to them how I felt about these cups, and how upset I was that people were paying more attention to a paper cup that is going to end up in the trash instead of people who are living in the streets and more than likely searching through that trash just to find something to eat. Isn’t that something actually worth getting upset about? Pay attention to the human beings truly in need this holiday season. It’s interesting how people can get so upset about a paper cup and then throw it away, but not see the human beings who are at the lowest point in their lives and not feel upset enough to make videos and protest like they are to a coffee company about a cup design (or lack of design).
Listening to their stories, I realized that these people are no different from me, but they’ve been dealt a losing hand and found themselves in need of help. Some have spent time in prison and are having trouble getting back into the job market, and some struggle with family issues surrounding abusive relationships and being disowned for perhaps being homosexual. But you wouldn’t know of any of this struggle unless you talked to them like any other human being. I walk by people in need every day, but it’s easy to give in and feel numb and blind to the homeless. But the only thing that makes me different from someone sitting on the street is that I have a job to go to, and a place to go home to. They want jobs, they want homes, and they want help. Every single one of them that I spoke to wants to change their life around, wants so badly to do whatever they can to get back on their feet. Most of them were just happy that I was willing to sit with them and listen to their stories.
For being a part of this project, I listened to all of these people and their stories, I bought them all something hot to drink from Starbucks, as well as giving them more than just pocket change. Helping someone in need this winter is not hard. Helping those in need is not about religion, it’s about being a good person. Think about that before you complain about your coffee cup.
(all photos taken by me).