Something happened today I have never experienced before. It left me reeling—not from shock, horror, or pain but with a genuine warmth I’ve not felt in a while. No, I didn’t meet Mr. Right. But the incident’s impact, if nurtured and shared, could prove just as long-lasting and perhaps more fulfilling. It all started out routinely enough. I ran to U-Haul for one last box and then pulled in behind a white pickup truck at a McDonald’s drive-thru to grab some lunch. Listening to the radio while mulling over what still needs doing before the movers show up next week, I didn’t notice much else. Pack this box. . .call the utilities. . .clean, clean, clean! Now, what have I forgotten? Meanwhile, the line inched forward. I fumbled through my purse, finally pulling out a wrinkled ten-dollar bill as I reached the pick-up window. The clerk appeared with my food but waved the money aside. “You’re fine. The guy ahead of you paid for your lunch.”
“What?” My hand holding the crumpled sawbuck still hung out the window.
“You don’t owe anything,” the clerk repeated. “The guy in that white pickup paid for your lunch.”
I stared, dumbfounded. “Why?” I blurted finally. The clerk shrugged. “I dunno. Guess he just wanted to make your day better.”
Even then it didn’t quite register. I stared after the departing truck and offered a hesitant wave as it turned onto the street and disappeared into the traffic. “My goodness. That’s never happened before.” Feeling strangely light, I thanked the clerk, took my lunch, and drove away. The upcoming move had me stressed to some degree but not overly burdened; nevertheless, that gentleman’s kindly act seemed to lift a weight off my shoulders. I wished I could have thanked him properly. He probably hadn’t seen my wave. At least, I decided, I could pass his generosity along. My face relaxed into a broad smile as I drove to Dutch Brothers for an iced tea. Nick, the barista, greeted me with his usual grin and a hearty, “How ya doin’?”
“Great! But you’re not going to believe this. I still don’t,” I answered. Nick’s smile never waned as I poured out my tale. “Actually,” he said, “I hear of that happening quite often. A guy even did that for me once, and last week the paper had an article about a mom who takes her kids to a drive-in and tells them, ‘How about we do something nice for that man (or that lady) behind us? Let’s buy them lunch.’ And she does.” Wow! What an example to set for your children!
As we talked, a woman pulled up to the opposite window. I gestured toward her. “Know what? I’m going to share that guy’s good deed and buy her drink. I think that’s the best way to thank him.” Nick agreed. Crossing to the other window, he took her order and brought me the bill. I paid and then, tea in hand, headed back to the office. I felt really good. As I drove, however, I got to thinking. No stranger had ever bought me lunch before, but several have done thoughtful little things over the years, like opening doors when I’m struggling with a package, holding the elevator, or offering a compliment or cheery greeting. While they might not seem significant, such small acts uplift the other person’s spirits. These simple courtesies tell a person, “You matter.” Inasmuch as ye have done it unto the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto Me. Having grown up in a Christian home I had heard those words of Jesus many times; yet how often have I withheld common courtesy because I am having a bad day and can’t (or won’t) look beyond my own issues, or because I am just plain Kopping an attitude? Maybe I can’t afford to buy everyone lunch, but I can certainly extend kindness. I can say by my words and deeds, “You matter.”
In that light I’ve decided to make the following my daily prayer: “Lord, help me treat others the way I would like to be treated, regardless of how I am treated in return. Help me to look for at least one opportunity for an act of kindness today.” And by living that way, mightn’t I make someone else’s day just a little bit better?
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