Suzanne Tobias

Suzanne Perez Tobias: Peppermint mocha, please – with a side of joyous rebellion


It had been a challenging week.

And challenging weeks – at least in our household – call for impromptu treats. Before sunrise Friday, I decided we’d drive through Starbucks for a pick-me-up on the way to school and work.

Hannah’s sour, foot-dragging mood sweetened somewhat at the prospect of a peppermint mocha. Jack wanted hot chocolate. I ordered a chai latte.

We’ll have that ready at the window. Please drive forward.

Rolling, rolling. I reached for my wallet to retrieve the $158 these three drinks likely would cost me. Sigh. Grumble.

At the window, the employee asked whether I needed a drink tray.

Nope, I told her. We’re all in the car.

“OK,” she said, then reached the first cup out to me. “Who do you have in there today?”

Just a couple of tired teenagers on the way to high school, I told her.

She leaned out the drive-through window and smiled at Hannah in the passenger’s seat, then peeked into the back seat and spotted Jack.

“Have you heard of Kid President?” she said.

Yes, we all nodded. Like 37 million other people, we’d heard his pep talk on YouTube: “This is life, people! You got air coming through your nose. You got a heartbeat. That means it’s time to do something!”

I’d seen Kid President videos at business meetings, leadership seminars and teacher workshops – “20 Things We Should Say More,” “Guide to Being Awesome” and his “Letter to a Person on Their First Day Here.” (“You’re awake. You’re awesome. Live like it.”)

Yes, I smiled, suddenly remembering. I love Kid President.

“Well, I saw him last night,” the Starbucks gal said. She had driven to Fort Hays State University, where 11-year-old Robby Novak made an appearance to share his insights and inspiration.

And she was inspired.

“I want you to remember you’re awesome,” she said to my children, looking them in the eyes. “You’re going to do amazing things.”

We looked at each other and back at her, chuckling uncomfortably. This is kind of weird, we thought. She continued.

“Go out there and do great things today,” she said. “Make a difference. I know you can.”

All right, we said, nodding more vigorously. Though awkward at first, her words and smile cut through our cynicism like an orange-pink sunrise.

“Lead a joyous rebellion,” she said.

OK, we promised. We’ll do it.

By the time I put the car in gear and turned out of the drive-through, we were energized and ready for the day. I don’t know about the kids, but I wanted to breathe deeply and dance and be thankful and give someone a surprise corn dog.

Her call to action was more powerful than espresso, and we drank it up.

I drove to work and spent the first few minutes watching Kid President. (Sorry, boss, but some days call for it.)

“Next time you feel overwhelmed or totally alone, remember this,” he said. “Things don’t have to be the way they are. The world is changed by ordinary people – little people living out big love.”

Big love back at you, Starbucks lady. Thanks for making the world a little more awesome.