The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf
I’d never heard of this company before I watched the episode featuring its CEO, John Fuller. Actually, I’d never watched Undercover Boss before, so both were new to me. Of course, anyone who knows me understands immediately why this particular episode drew my attention. Coffee is always a favorite topic.
The idea behind the show, if you don’t already know, is that the boss of some large company goes through a transformation to make him unrecognizable to employees, then goes to work among them. The CEO of The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf, John Fuller, had hair extensions so he could wear a ponytail, and a perpetual five o’clock shadow, giving him a scruffy look. He changed his name to “Mick,” then went to work first in the Downy, CA, store. He fumbled around quite a bit, obviously not an expert at making specialty coffees, but his experience there was priceless. The entire hour-long show, where he “worked” in several Coffee Bean stores, taught him a lot about the ground level of his company.
I’m not going to recap the entire show, just a couple of things that stood out.
Going back to Downy, the manager there (Deanna) confessed to not having finished high school and to having a rough life before she went to work for Coffee Bean. “Mick” listened with full, compassionate attention to what she had to say. The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf had given her a break, and she proved herself worthy, despite enumerable family and personal hardships. At the time of the show’s airing, she’d worked there 15 years.
The same was true in another of the stores, where the young man knew as much about tea as he did coffee. Again, “Mick” worked and learned and gave a compassionate ear to the manager, who had moved to California from Indiana. For over $500 per month, the store manager rented floor space in a friend’s apartment so he could have a place to sleep. As he said, it beat being homeless, something he knew from experience. The man could speak four languages and was well educated, but, because of his work schedule, he didn’t have the time or money to find a decent place to live in California.
“Mick” visited four retail outlets and listened to amazing tales of hardship from his employees. I have to admit, some of the stories had me boo-hooing loud enough to miss the dialogue. People were hurting. They needed help. And they were worthy of compassion and care.
Near the end of “Mick’s” hour, he revealed himself to those he’d worked with. For all but one, who’d guessed earlier, the revelation was a surprise. But each time he let one of them know who he was, he also let them know he cared. On behalf of The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf, he provided help to ease their loads and rewards for service well done. It was a terrific show.
By the time my weeping and sniffing were over, I realized that what John Fuller did–what the show Undercover Boss does–is as close as I can get to explaining what Jesus did for us two thousand years ago.
Just as John Fuller didn’t stop being “boss” when he went through his transformation and worked among his employees, Jesus didn’t stop being God when he went through his transformation and lived with us. Instead, “he did not consider equality with God to be something used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness” (Philippians 2:6, NIV). Jesus lived as a human among us, listening compassionately, helping everywhere he was needed.
John Fuller was revealed to his employees as their boss long before Undercover Boss revealed his story to us on TV. Jesus reveals himself to those who love him and work for him long before he’ll be revealed to the world–and then, “at the name of Jesus every knee shall bow . . . and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord” (Philippians 2:10-11).
I had fun recognizing all the similarities and realizing how they can help explain who Jesus was when he walked this earth, who he is to us now. But there is a vital difference. Jesus didn’t become an “undercover boss” to see how we live. He came to give us life and show us how to live it. “I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly” (John 10:10 NKJV).
Jesus went through a great transformation on the day of his birth so that we can have a great transformation because of his life and sacrifice. Because of his great gift, we celebrate his birth.
Merry Christmas, everyone.