Sarah Campbell says she wanted to work at Starbucks because she loves interacting and connecting with people, so when an unanticipated communications barrier arose with a deaf customer, the situation stumped her - until she heard a message from God during a sermon.
Campbell was at church not long after her first encounter with a deaf customer at work, when her pastor began speaking about God's Kingdom, explaining to parishioners how it was made up of all types of people, cities, and even different languages. The pastor was telling everyone they are God's hands. She said she was "completely blown away," and took this as a sign that God was telling her to serve the Deaf community, and so she mentally revisited the time the communications barrier surfaced.
On the day a certain couple walked into Campbell's coffee shop in Canada, following the Starbucks' policy of taking names to write on the cups, Campbell asked for theirs. The man gave his name, but the woman looked at Campbell with a stunned expression.
"She was really surprised I talked to her," but Campbell didn't understand why.
"I was shocked. I didn't know what to say or do."
In a video, entitled "The Follower," in which Campbell's uses American Sign Language (ASL) to tell this whole story, she indicated the man spoke for his girlfriend, telling the barista about her deafness. Campbell said she felt uneasy by this, as she was accustomed to talking with her customers. In this situation, the only way she could communicate with the woman was by smiling.
"It was unfair," she believed.
The McGill University student and extrovert said the whole experience lingered with her and bothered her that she couldn't communicate with all customers. "I was mulling over how to make that same connection with a Deaf person."
So, she asked a friend to teach her a little bit of ASL, the predominant sign language of deaf communities in North America, specifically related to a few terms used at Starbucks, such as coffee, tea and cup, in case the deaf woman returned. However, the customer didn't return, but after Campbell received the sign at church, she decided it was a life-changing event.
Campbell went on to become more educated in ASL, as well as in the Deaf culture. She initiated a partnership with Seeing Voices to teach other baristas ASL so they, too, can connect with hearing-impaired customers. She also hosted workshops to improve interactions with hearing-challenged customers.
In the video, she said she felt the more she learned about the Deaf community, and Deaf culture, the deeper she was able to connect with her deaf friends, especially when it came to God. "I know that in my life, God has a heart in telling me how much He loves me and He wants to connect with me. He sent His son to die on the cross to be able to connect with us, with all people, Deaf or hearing, God loves all His children. And I want me Deaf friends to understand that."
Campbell recently followed Christ to Bangkok, Thailand, to manage a coffee house and minister to victims of human trafficking, including the Deaf.