If it loves, it leads

barista prayerIf it bleeds, it leads.

This may or may not be an actual quote from an anonymous newsman from an undetermined era working in an unknown newsroom. It doesn’t matter if these words were actually spoken or not. It is generally accepted as the defining attitude of journalists everywhere.

We are callused.

We are insensitive.

We are jaded.

We lack compassion.

We love the taste of blood. Someone else’s blood. Anyone else.

Some of the characterizations are deserved. To borrow from a Jimmy Buffett song, in my line of work, I seem to see a lot more than most. Witness enough tragedy, carry home enough second-hand grief, and you get heavy. Jaded happens. Weary from the work, some journalists do, indeed, forget about compassion and sensitivity. Others can’t lean on that excuse. Let’s face it, some people are just jerks. Reporters are people. There are a few who will salivate and high five over a plane crash. I have no explanation for that.

If it bleeds, it leads.

Boy, have I got a lead for you. This one will stem the bleeding.

News operations across the country have been telling the story of Pierce Dunn and Evan Freeman. They’re baristas in Vancouver, Washington, coffee mixologists working a cramped drive-thru during the morning rush. One morning, they encountered a woman who needed more than a triple mocha latte.

Barbara Danner was having a bad day. She broke down in the  Dutch Bros Coffee drive-thru, right in front of our friends Pierce and Evan. Not broke down as in her Volvo overheated, I mean broke down like emotional bankruptcy. She’d lost her husband the night before. She couldn’t move. At most drive-thrus, that would earn you an earful of horn and an offensive finger, maybe a free decaf.

Not at Dutch Bros.

“I was like, there’s nothing more you need to say,” said Pierce Dunn. “We got this. We’re going to do what we do every time we get someone who’s in pain or hurt. We’re going to give them our love.”

One of the drivers behind Danner snapped a picture of Pierce, Evan, and another employee with their heads bowed, their eyes closed, their hands comforting an overwhelmed widow. The coffee orders were put on hold while the group prayed. The baristas whipped up a Grande cup of peace and assurance.

The image of the caffeine-free group hug has gone viral. So have Pierce and Evan.

“If every single person did an act of kindness or just had a smile on their face, the world would be a completely different place,” said Dunn.

Who knew there was a coffee shop that served high octane moral guidance?

I don’t know what was going on the night reporters from Seattle and Portland covered this story. And they did cover it. It’s likely the 11 o’clock news kicked off with a scandal, a smash and grab, or a sizzling investigation. The drive-thru prayer probably played toward the end of the show. News producers like to leave you on a high note.

What if the producers put it at the top of the newscast? What if, for one night, compassion trumped car chases, decency outdid disaster, kindness was more important than a random killing?

What if?

“If every single person did an act of kindness, the world would be a completely different place.”

A different place.

I’ve worked with producers bold enough to start the news with a story like this. Realistically, you can’t do it on a night when there’s breaking disaster, or high drama in the courts, or shenanigans in the legislature. But there are days when the lead story is basically a repeat of what we’ve seen a million times before, and something like this…

A different place.

I would love to see it happen more often, a newscast where the lead story has sweat and tears.

But no blood.

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