Change the world
“I would not change you for the world, but I will change the world for you.” — Amy Wright, to her two younger children watching her on television
My sister and I just got back from a road trip to Savannah, St. Simon’s Island, and Jekyll Island, Georgia. We had agreed that there would be no timetables or constraints on this trip; it was strictly relaxation-oriented. However, there was one spot my sister insisted we MUST SEE, and I was happy to prioritize it, because I felt the same. That place was Bitty & Beau’s Coffee Shop.
I’m not particularly a coffee hound, and though my sister drinks more coffee than I do, neither one of us would ordinarily put a coffee shop at the top of our list. But Bitty & Beau’s is no ordinary coffee shop. Its founder, who is quoted above, is the mother of four children, the youngest two of whom have Down Syndrome. Though Bitty and Beau are still too young for employment, Wright was concerned that over 80% of people with intellectual or developmental disabilities are unemployed, and she set out to change that. In the process, she created a remarkable place for everyone to enjoy.
I had read about Bitty & Beau’s a few weeks ago when it was linked in one of the many disability-oriented resource lists I read from time to time, and I immediately wrote their headquarters to request that they open a shop near me. I got back a response that they plan to open another store in Annapolis, Maryland, in the near future, so I plan to visit there soon.
Meanwhile, I was planning the trip to Savannah, where they already had opened their third shop. I couldn’t wait to go. Although I hadn’t seen the clips of the shop when it was featured on broadcasts such as The Today Show, Rachael Ray, CNN, Harry, Good Morning America, Dr. Oz, HLN, People Magazine and Southern Living Magazine, even without knowing about the televised fanfare, I knew it must be something remarkable.
Bitty and Beau’s was all that I hoped it would be, and more. The interior was classy and appealing. The traffic was steady and the atmosphere a perfect refuge from the 90-degree heat outside. All that plus tea and coffee too? Count me in!
There were two baristas working when we went in. An assistant manager was behind the counter too, overseeing their work, but during the hour (or more) that we spent there, I did not see a single time when she told them what to do or corrected their work. She was simply another smiling face, chatting with us about the area and the store’s products.
My sister noted that, in between customers, the baristas stayed busy polishing up the bar stools, stocking supplies and going about their business in a variety of ways. Clearly, they had mastered the job and enjoyed doing it. But they didn’t mind stopping briefly to pose with me.
I sipped my chai while enjoying the shop displays and marveling at the pin map, where customers could place a pin to indicate their home. For a shop that has been open less than a year, their global influence was quite impressive. There wasn’t room to put a pin into the DC area, so I managed to wedge one into southeastern Virginia, representing York County.
We had to tear ourselves away. I had never been to Savannah, so I knew I should get out and do some exploring. I got a delicious frozen lemonade to go, and reluctantly said farewell. But this stop was the highlight of my trip. Watch the clip linked above at Amy Wright’s name, and see if it does’t put a smile on your face. I’m pretty sure it will brighten your day.
Remember, we really can change the world. We might be unable to do something as grand and award-worthy as Wright has done, but we can capture the same spirit as we interact with others, one person at a time. We can do this in small ways, through donations, through supporting local businesses that aim for more than money, and through getting to know those we may have unintentionally disregarded. The biggest difference will happen in our own hearts. Try it!