Recently I was hanging out in my Starbucks annex office with my friend Ben Salmon. I enjoy hanging out with Ben, even though he has an annoying habit of wanting to sit on a cedar plank.

(pause whilst I wait on the pun to sink in)

Somewhere around the last quadrant of the conversation, I saw a sight so hideous, so disgusting, so onerous that I could not look away. It was like my own personal train wreck inside a coffee shop. Ben was mid-sentence of what was (I’m sure) some fascinating customer service story when I saw a little boy pick up one of the green “splash sticks.” While his mom was busy ordering a Frapposoylattachino, he was innocently picking up the stick…then tapping the stick…then twirling the stick…then putting the stick in his ear…then putting the stick back in the communal stick cup.

Yes. You read that right. I will never forget that sight, and now you can’t either. The kid. Put the stick. In his EAR. And spun it around. And then it went back in the cup. The common cup. The common cup that others will pick a stick from.

And then die a slow painful death as the result of a communicable little boy earwax disease.

Here’s the thing: I saw that. And now I can’t unsee it. From this point forward, every time I go to grab a splash stick, I’m going to catch myself, then ask my barista to go in the back storage area, open a fresh case, peel back the cellophane seal while wearing latex gloves, and hand me my splash stick using tweezers that have been sterilized in alcohol and high heat.

Every weekend, you have the potential to allow guests to see something they can’t unsee. A heated interaction between volunteers. A parking team guy throwing his hands up in disgust when they didn’t see which way he was pointing. A dirty bathroom. A broken system.

As Mark Waltz and your mama say, first impressions really do matter. Yes, we can eventually overcome a bad one, but people will rarely forget their first exposure to you. Just like seeing a little boy with a splash stick in his ear, there are some things we’ll just never forget.

What are some “splash stick” stories you’ve seen at churches you’ve visited? At the Summit Church? Comment below.