Coffee or Clean Water?

Warm scarf.

Frayed sweater.

Crisp air.

Burning trash.

Rosy cheeks.

Starving bellies.

It is time to speak up on an issue of contrasting standards. It is time to talk about my favorite season and why I need to enjoy it more this year.

Every year, autumn swarms me with tastings of pumpkin, warm wool and heaps of colorful leaves. However, after spending a summer in Kenya, I can’t help but be thankful. American autumn is nothing short of first-world bliss. We delight in our taste buds, layer ourselves in overpaid clothing and crank up our thermostat.

How can I come home with a Starbucks in hand and ignore the beautiful faces I saw — the beautiful faces that wept over clean water alone?

I’m not writing this article to make you hate yourself or donate every penny to Feed the Children. I’m writing this to remind you  we’re part of the one percent.

As a first world citizen, I can admit a stack of my paycheck goes straight to the coffeehouse.

“We make just over $3,000 in a day,” senior EXPW major Jordynn Holm, barista at the Starbucks on campus, said.

Holm has worked at the campus Starbucks for over four years and is no stranger to the million-dollar franchise of coffee. She also has seen the sudden rise in income at the end of a cool, near-autumn day.

“Everyone loves the fall flavors. Everyone, everyone! I see tweets about it all the time. I see Facebook comments about it, that as long as they get their pumpkin spice latte, their day is made.”

Our days are made by lattes.


This summer I had a sweet, chocolate-skinned girl place a bracelet in my hands. A bracelet made out of the material of her sweater. Her only sweater. She gave me a piece of one of her few belongings. I couldn’t help but wince at the thought of my closet busting from the seams at home.

After trying to find my balance among infuriation of where we blessed first-world spenders shell out our money, I had to remind myself there is good in this world, and I certainly can’t be the only one convincing myself of this.

In and out of hallways through the University Center and at the convenience of others in line for lunch, I got to scratch the surface. I acquired the feedback of 24 different students about where their money is going day-to-day.  

My first results were expected, as 25 percent of those I interviewed said they don’t donate to charity — considering we are college students, after all.

However, an equally matched 25 percent of my polls revealed they do not purchase coffee leisurely. This data can at least say one thing: they aren’t frivolous with their money.

But, I needed to dig deeper.

So I found what juxtaposed this situation: 54 percent of these college students said they spend less than $25 on their daily brew a month. With less than a dollar a day on coffee, it seems fairly reasonable. I can’t even fight against that. If you know anything about me, I’m not functioning until I’ve had two cups of dark roast and a pat on the back. I need a lot to keep me going.

What encouraged me more was the 58 percent of the students who said they donate up to $25 a month toward charity, like freshman social work major Emily Sherrill.

“Most causes need the money more than we do,” she said.

Some students weren’t as convinced.

“It’s important to research the charity,” junior physical therapy major Taylor Gillespie said.

I can respect that. Research the charity. Research the heck out of the charity, but don’t ignore it.

We’ve all seen the ALS ice bucket challenge, and goodness knows you probably were challenged to do it, but we need more than just a nomination. It turned into a popularity contest of forcing donations out of your friends. I’m glad people gave, but I’m looking for that urge. We need to want to give. We need to involve ourselves into making this world better than it is.

According to “Business Insider,” the United States is the sixth wealthiest country in the world, with a GDP per capita of $47,084.

If we are the sixth richest, we have some pocket change to spare.

I challenge you this week to replace ONE of your Starbucks indulgences for solidified charity. We all need to do a little good, with me being the biggest critic.

Yes, I am going to enjoy autumn this year. Yes, I am still going to choose to crochet, watch Netflix and make mountains of pumpkin bread instead of doing my homework. But I’m not going to enjoy my autumn bliss without being a realist.

I could have easily been a Kenyan living in the slums of Kibera or an Eskimo in Alaska, yet I’m in Cookeville, Tenn., living the American dream of earning a college degree.

Let’s not forget how lucky we are. Let’s make the most of this beautiful season by giving to others instead of just ourselves.