Starbucks, a Tip Jar, & a Rosary

For the Heart…

I was meeting a young man at the Starbucks on campus. As I went to pay for my chilled Vanilla Frappuccino in cash, I came up a few cents short. When the young woman at the register noted my dilemma, she reached into the employees’ tip jar for a quarter to make up the difference. Touched by her kind gesture I wanted somehow to show my gratitude. This occupied my attention for the first few minutes of my meeting with the young man. I had often given out Rosary bracelets to students in the past but had none with me. Therefore, I looked at my own Rosary – plastic, evidently used, and not particularly beautiful – and wondered if I should give it to her, not even sure she was Catholic. I decided to give it a go. I told the young man I would be right back.

She was still at the register when I approached her, displaying the Rosary in my hand.

I asked, ‘Do you know what this is?’

‘Yes,’ she said rather hesitatingly.

‘Do you know how to use it?’


‘Would you like it?’ I asked.

‘Sure…’ she said in an apparent daze of unease.

Returning to my table, I told the young man that it did not seem to go well. ‘You can’t win them all,’ I thought.

The next day walking across campus, I ran into a young woman I knew from Sunday Mass, who also worked at that same Starbucks.

She approached with a smile and said, ‘Yesterday, you gave my friend a Rosary.’

Grimacing, I said, ‘I think I made her quite uncomfortable.’

‘No,’ she said, ‘my friend had just begun to read the Bible again.’

‘And so she took my giving her a Rosary as a sign from God to keep praying?’ I asked.

‘Exactly,’ she said.

This experience and others like it have taught me a few lessons.

Firstly, not every apparent failure actually is one. When sharing the faith, it is hard to tell how deep the seed, which we have just tried to plant, will go. I had no idea about her having begun to read the Bible or that she was open to practicing the faith again. God knew. St. Paul writes: I planted, Apollos watered, but God caused the growth. Therefore, neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God, who causes the growth’ [1 Cor 3:6-7].

Secondly, we must keep sowing. Our efforts in evangelizing are only part of God’s plan with each soul. I never saw the young barista again, but I trust that God will place someone else in her path to water her budding faith. If I hadn’t offered that Rosary, I would have wasted a seed. Each encounter, however small, is an opportunity to share the faith. While actions speak volumes, we must also be willing to ‘risk’ explicitly sharing the faith with others. Again, St. Paul writes, ‘For everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved. But how can they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how can they believe in him of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone to preach?’ [Rm 10:13-14].

Thirdly, sharing the faith takes practice. Think of how much effort professional musicians and athletes put into their trade. Michael Jordan, for example, was notorious for his intense training, even at the top of the game.[1] We can read about evangelization, watch videos about it, and ask others what to do, but in the end, we need to try it ourselves. Approach someone. Start a conversation about the faith. As we try, and make mistakes, we will get better at it.

Finally, our hope for success is not rooted in our own efforts. Rather, our efforts are a concrete expression of our faith in God’s grace working through us. Those repeated efforts, even in apparent failure, like at Starbucks that day, will bear fruit, because God is faithful.

Fr. John Bullock, LC


[1] Cf. ‘Keys to Excellence (Even Michael Jordan Had to Do It). Susan Kalla, Forbes, May 31, 2012.

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