St Albans Starbucks worker leaves blank book in shop - dozens pen their most personal life experiences
Danny Loo Photography 2016
A coffee shop worker inspired by her humanitarian work has encouraged dozens of customers to lay bare their most personal experiences in a book.
Maria Finch, who works in the central St Albans Starbucks, spent months volunteering in Third World countries, and said that the experience made her keen to explore the concept of vulnerability.
Having carried out a similar project while studying art, Maria left a blank book in Starbucks at the beginning of October, giving customers the opportunity to write about their experiences of feeling vulnerable and what the word means to them.
Since then, many people have anonymously penned a wide range of anecdotes - including some very candid accounts.
She told the Herts Advertiser: “When I was travelling we [the people she was working with] were faced with emotionally draining situations almost daily - people suffering right in front of you.
“We had to be strong for them. It was hard to take in, so when we all congregated at the end of the day we would just cry. There’s something liberating about being vulnerable with people. I learnt a lot about myself.
“I just thought I would love to hear more about other people’s experiences. I did a book when I was at college on authenticity. I first tried to interview people and they didn’t want to speak to me, so I tried the book.
“I realised that people don’t want to speak to a stranger, they find it hard to open up. That’s where the idea of anonymity came about.”
Passages include accounts of people’s experiences with abuse, depression, eating disorders, self-confidence and trust issues, but also love and friendship.
One person recounted how they became suicidal following a period of depression but that they overcame their experience of ‘feeling vulnerable’ when they met their partner, replacing that feeling with love.
Another, a transgender male, wrote about how he is vulnerable to many things but that he is positive things will get better,
Teenage girls have taken to the book to describe their experiences with love and relationships - both with people and with themselves.
Some teens have spoken about their relationships with their parents - one wrote about how a missing father figure left them feeling vulnerable.
Contributors have also responded to other’s passages with words of encouragement or empathy.
Maria added: “It was a spur of the moment idea but it’s very important. I’ve been really happy with the way people have engaged.”
Maria’s manager Faye Oliver said that they really encourage staff’s individuality. She added: “It’s been really popular.
“More freedom for our staff to pursue projects like this makes them more relaxed and creative.”
The book will remain in Starbucks until the end of December if you would like to contribute or read it.
Paul-James Brown, district manager for Starbucks franchise partner Soul Coffee Company, said: “We are delighted by Maria’s passion for creating a warm and welcoming environment for the St Albans community. We know our store partners really value their customer relationships and this project has brought the whole team together.”