Starbucks Barista Tearfully Reveals Customer's Life-Changing Surprise: 'Something I Will Never Forget' (Exclusive)

Courtney Crawford changed one woman's day and in turn, that woman set in motion an act of kindness with life-changing effects for the barista

<p>Courtney Crawford/TikTok</p> Courtney Crawford (left), the urn Courtney was able to purchase for her mom

Courtney Crawford/TikTok

Courtney Crawford (left), the urn Courtney was able to purchase for her mom's ashes
  • Courtney Crawford showed up to an early morning shift at her second job at Starbucks when she encountered a customer struggling

  • The barista made the extra effort to make the woman smile and was later rewarded with a note from the woman

  • Crawford has shared her story in hopes of inspiring more kindness and connecting with her mystery customer

An unsuspecting Starbucks barista had a life-changing encounter with a customer.

Courtney Crawford is a barista at a Starbucks in Little Rock, Arkansas. At 5:00 a.m., she decided to go the extra mile while serving a customer who was having a rough start to their morning.

"I’d say it was a pretty normal morning to be honest, nothing out of the ordinary," Crawford tells PEOPLE exclusively. "Just another great day at work! She came in early in the morning and certainly needed that coffee and a pick me up."

Crawford, nicknamed CeCe, made an effort to be extra kind to the woman, only to later learn from her manager that the customer had left her a note before she left the store.

The woman's note to Crawford read, "I travel a lot for work, that usually means late nights and very early mornings. I haven't had to travel to Little Rock in six months until this week. I've been here for two days and so far, you have been the only person I have encountered that has been genuinely kind. You were the first face I saw this morning and you really brightened my day."

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The note included $200 with the instructions for Crawford to "treat yourself to something nice," with the writer adding, "I can tell you deserve it." She signed her note "the groggy woman at 5:00 a.m."

By the end of her shift that day, Crawford knew she wanted to share her story on TikTok.

"I decided that to be granted as much peace as I was granted by that woman’s act of kindness was not something I should keep to myself," she says. "I had to find her and thank her and let her know that maybe I made her smile that day, but she had given me something that was life-changing for me."

What the mystery customer couldn't have known was that Crawford was bracing herself for her first Mother’s Day without her mom, who died last June.

"I have the Starbucks job on top of my full-time job because I have a lot of bills to pay and a lot of debt that I have inherited to get under control, and I would be lying to you if I told you that I was not dreading Mother's Day," she candidly admitted, getting tearful in a TikTok video where she shared her story.

Crawford explained in her TikTok that she planned to use the money to buy a beautiful urn for her mother's ashes.

"With the $200 you put in that note today, that allows me to spend Mother's Day with my mom," she said through tears. "I appreciate you so much, so if you're out there, and if you're on TikTok, thank you for the impact that you made on my life. I hope that you see this and know that you did something that I will never forget. So, thank you."

"It immediately brought me to tears," Crawford tells PEOPLE of the note.

"I had made the decision to bring my mom home just the night before. I had even spoken with my husband about it. Reading that note felt like a metaphorical hug in itself, and then when the personal tip was revealed, I couldn’t hold back the tears! But I remembered I was at work and had more people to make smile, so I dried it up pretty quickly."

Crawford never expected that her TikTok would amass over 3 million views and open her story to an audience who wanted to help in more ways than one.

"To see the response it got on TikTok shocked me and I honestly didn’t want the attention to be focused on me. However, I had the opportunity to connect with so many others that had lost loved ones," she shares.

"Complete strangers messaged me and told me beautiful vulnerable things about these people they loved. So if me posting my video encouraged others to be kind and showed some that they’re not alone in their grief, even if I never find my 5:00 a.m. groggy Starbucks lady, it was worth it to me."

Starbucks also took notice, sharing a statement with PEOPLE from the president of the company's North American division, Sara Trilling.

"Our partners are the very best of us. CeCe truly embodies Starbucks values of Belonging and Joy – treating everybody with respect and care. This act of kindness shows how the possibilities of human connection are, indeed, limitless," she says.

Going viral has proven to Crawford that "our world right now is really craving authenticity and vulnerability and kindness and the permission to be all of the above, free of judgment."

"I think we get so wrapped up in the rat race of life and who everyone expects us to be that we forget our own humanity and what makes us who we are in the first place. When people get a dose of someone being unapologetically themselves, it's refreshing. I think my post gave the permission some may have been looking for to feel what they were feeling or share kindness with someone else."

Crawford's kindness has sparked something in others, with "several folks reaching and asking me if there are others I knew of being in need."

"I posted a GoFundMe in my bio for a local family who lost both parents. After posting that GoFundMe, its donations have already grown by nearly $4K," Crawford shares.

As for her groggy 5:00 a.m. customer, "the search continues."

"I want her to know that on the hard days, on the days that she feels defeated and discouraged and wonders why she's even here, that she has not only a purpose but such an immense impact on the world around her," Crawford says of the woman, with whom she's still hopeful to connect.

<p>Nicolas Economou/NurPhoto via Getty</p> Starbucks Coffee sign on a storefront in New York City

Nicolas Economou/NurPhoto via Getty

Starbucks Coffee sign on a storefront in New York City

Starbucks is also helping in the search, sharing Crawford's calling for that person to come forward.

"If she wouldn't have blessed me with her act of kindness I never would’ve posted that video that has encouraged so many people around the world to just be kind and show that there are still great people in the world and all we have to do to get more is simply be them," she notes.

"She started this huge movement with something I’m sure she considers small. My life has forever been changed by the simple fact that my mom can come home with me. But who knows who else’s lives she has touched through my search for her."

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