Stranger 31, Day 31 – Meet Kellie, the “Morning’s Shine”

Stranger 31, Day 31 - Meet Kellie

Today is a classic example of seeing someone almost everyday, but never saying anything to… well, except for my tea order. Today, I got a chance to meet a young woman behind the counter at the coffee shop in my office. She had heard of the project, but didn’t find it online, so it was great to still have an open canvas. She was super excited, too, about the opportunity to meet, so that was a big boost for me. So here goes…

Meet Kellie, 23

Who are you?

“Kellie C… K-e-l-l-just kidding!” She laughs.

“I’m from Boise, ID, and moved here a year ago. Work in coffee shop. Work in Buckhead Church. I’m also a nanny. Do a little bit of everything — super busy for that reason.”

She admits that she doesn’t like this question comparing it to “what do you like to do?” She laughs sharing how she likes Netflix. However, she doesn’t have a lot of free time.

“I have seven brothers and sisters — big family. Parents are crazy. We’re scattered all over.”

“I think the biggest thing I’ve learned about myself, is I love people. It’s what steered me in the direction of the church. I never in a million years thought I would be working in a church, but it just happened. I work really close to people there. Here, I work with a lot of different people here [as a barista].” She points to one of the people she really enjoys serving.

“It’s a really relationship-driven world. No matter what you’re doing — sales or coffee or whatever… you know that relationship first and foremost, and you can get whatever you want with people… whether it’s because you have good intentions or not, that’s really important.”

What other passions do you have?

“I like to sing. I don’t do that as much. Back home, I did that more — sing the national anthem at basketball games or here or there. I like to volunteer a lot. I’ve started to get a lot more plugged in here in Atlanta which was hard at the beginning because I moved here knowing one person here. Right now, I’m mentoring a 5th grader.”

She describes how the 5th attends a school where most of the children are in a free-lunch program and how many “don’t have a steady adult in their lives”. She enjoys being that person for her mentee.

Kellie then shares how she volunteers often for the Atlanta Mission as well as some of the other churches she’s affiliated with.

“… leads back into helping people, and just being passionate about people.”

Where do you think that [passion] comes from?

Kellie sighs and thinks… “depends how much time you have!” She laughs.

“Being a child with so many brothers and sisters around,” she starts. She’s number 6 out of the 7. “I just felt like maybe I wanted more attention as a kid, and I had a really hard time” with someone very close to Kellie years ago. We would go deeper into this later, but summarized how this individual did not feel loved.

“That was really hard for me because I wasn’t there,” Kellie shared. She was thinking about this more and was tying this into her passion.

“I think that’s what really stemmed me to be like, ‘I want people to feel loved. I don’t care who you are. I don’t care if I don’t know you.’ Also the fact that every single person you come across, you have no idea how their day has been. You have no idea what they’ve been through — the day before, that week, that month, that year, that morning… so, to me, I work at a coffee shop and I realize it’s not the most glamorous job in the world. I’m not going to do it my entire life; although, it’s super fun, but these people might’ve already had a rough morning when I see them at 7:30AM. I don’t know what it stems from, but I’m so glad it’s stemmed from something because it’s so much more fun this way. So great to meet so many people, and I love it!”

“It’s fun! It’s a fun treat to have! It’s almost bad to love people as much as I do sometimes, because I feel so… I have a lot of empathy for people that can be good or bad. But mostly good.”

Do you feel you’re as empathetic with yourself as you are with others?

“No.”

Are you doing anything about that? Would you like to be more?

“I don’t have time to do anything for myself. I’m lucky if I get home and I can meal prep for the next day.”

“People always says, ‘work life balance’, but for me, I’m like, ‘3 jobs and 1 life.’ There’s no balance. That is my life. I chose that, but I’ve also been financially independent since I was 16. I guess it stems from coming from a big family. I paid rent to my parents starting since I was 16. I started working at 14, and have been working ever since.” Kellie opened up about how she had been working through high school, playing basketball, college, everything.

“It’s fine. I love the fact that I’m driven, and I was raised the way that I was because it’s morphed me into a hard-working, driven, go-getter which is awesome. I’m proud of myself for that, but I don’t have a lot of time for myself. I’m very painfully aware of it, but I feel like I can’t make time, unfortunately. I do what I can.”

Is there a reason why you’re working so hard?

“Because I have student loans and a car payment… all that fun stuff. Adulting!” Haha

Is there one thing that keeps you up at night? What is that?

Kellie goes into detail about how someone very close to her struggled a few years before. This person had tried to commit suicide despite appearing anything but unhappy. In fact, Kellie described this person as “the happiest, peppiest… most fun” individual. It was a complete shock to Kellie how this could happen.

Kellie asked, “What made you want to do this? What drove you to the point that you were like, ‘I literally cannot continue to go on?'”

This individual spoke about not knowing love… perhaps feeling alone — not feelingly lonely per se, but feeling alone. To Kellie, it seemed unbelievable and keeps her up at night — “knowing there are people out there that genuinely don’t feel love by anyone,” and for someone so close to feel that way.

She continues, “For me, ‘what can I do to help?’ That’s why I plugged myself into the community, and I plugged myself into my friends. ‘What can I do to help you?'”

Thinking about how this individual struggled to realize s/he was loved… but didn’t feel that way, is there something that you do now or that you recommend to others to make sure people feel loved?

“The best advice I can give is, just be a nice person. It sounds so cheesy and stupid, but… I’ve had my days, too, when people are rude. I don’t want to be a nice person. I wake up, and I’m exhausted. I wake up at 4:30 in the morning, and I don’t get home till 8. I don’t want to workout. I don’t want to do anything. I want to go to bed. We all have our off-days, but you never never know what people are going through. You never know. I came into work today, for example. I did not want to be here. I’ve been up since 6. I’ve been driving all over the place, and one person came in, 30 minutes after I got here, and she was like, ‘you look so great today!’ and gave me hug, and it was like, ‘that’s all I needed’. Be a nice person. That’s all it is. That’s the best advice you can give to anybody.”

I asked her if she there weren’t enough nice people for the individual to which she said no pretty quickly.

“I don’t think there are enough genuinely nice people that are doing it that don’t have an agenda behind it. I think lots of people are nice, but they are doing it for the benefit of themselves to get something out of it.”

When was the last time you were truly happy? What was it that made you so happy?

“Today.”

“I was in a meeting at North Point Community Church because I work for them. We partnered with the Atlanta Mission a lot. We’re starting a campaign called, ‘Be Rich’.”

“Jim was talking to us, and he shared with us this guy named Larry who was battling lung disease — it was terminal, so he knew any day, he could pass. We got to know his story, and… really cool. He came to know Jesus, and his daughter was battling addiction her whole life. He was battling addition his whole life, which is how he ended up at the Atlanta Mission. It was just so cool to know — religion aside — just the fact that someone can turn their life around, and the fact we, as a staff at North Point, could partner with people like that and give hope, and show them it’s not the end of the world. Life gets better.”

“If I could say anything to anybody going through a hard time is, ‘life gets better’. Because I’ve been there. I’ve not always been this happy. I’ve not always had this personality. You just have to adapt and learn and grow all the time.”

What would you like to ask tomorrow’s Stranger?

“Who would they like to meet with? Like what person in history would they want to sit and talk to, and then, what would be the number one question they would want to ask?”

After the handshake.

Kellie is full of energy. I’m getting a sense that when people realize what this project is about, they get super excited. That’s awesome.

I really appreciated how Kellie realized the untold story behind people’s everyday. That is, we don’t know what’s happening in each other’s lives. For Kellie, this has hit home with the story about someone very close to her. It’s tragic, but things seem to be better now. The positive is learning from what happened and realizing that what we see is just the tip of the iceberg. Kellie sees expressing love via generosity and connection as the key to showing love… for everyone.

What I found to be somewhat troubling as Kellie pointed out was her feeling that many people have hidden agendas and motives to being nice. This wasn’t the first time I’ve heard this, and I wonder if that’s really true. Maybe that’s what Margaret, Stranger 30, meant when she wanted to have the super power to read minds. This is perhaps an area I’d like to explore with future Strangers — an idea that many people are not nice just to be nice.

But again, it was great to finally put a name and a story to someone I see often.

Meet Kellie. No longer a Stranger.

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  1. […] Stranger walking around my office again. This time, I stopped by the coffee shop to say hello to Kellie, Stranger 31. Then, I continued walking around, and stopped by one guy working on his computer. I walked up and […]

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