A few days ago, on route to do a mediation, I found myself in the drive-through line-up at Tim Hortons. I'd been in a hurry to leave the house and hadn't had time to grab something for lunch. So there I was, waiting to buy a bagel, and using the time to listen to CBC Radio and put on a bit of make-up. While looking at myself in the visor mirror (no doubt thinking about how old I'm starting to look!), a little voice in my head suddenly whispered, "pay for the people behind you." My head snapped up - it was as if someone sitting beside me had said these words, it was that clear. I looked in my rearview mirror and saw a somewhat older couple sitting in the sedan behind me. Both were staring out their windows, and both looked sad - or maybe grim would be a better descriptor. As I sat there watching them over the course of the two or three minutes that I continued to wait in line, the only time the view in my mirror altered was when the driver looked forward to direct the car as we all inched along...but as soon as he stopped moving again, he resumed his sideways stare. They didn't speak during that time.
Now, I have no idea whether or not those folks were as sober as they really looked. It's not like Geoff and I smile at and talk to each other the entire time that we're in the car together. Sometimes it's just nice to enjoy a companionable silence and the private world of one's thoughts. So I don't know what was going on for this couple. But I did have that little nudge in my brain that I should pay for their breakfasts, and they did appear rather grim-faced.
It turns out that my decision to go with the voice in my head cost me an extra $5.57. (Fortunately, they weren't ordering for the whole office crowd!) As I left the drive-through window, still staring in my rear view mirror, I saw them pull up to the window and the driver extend his hand towards the cashier. My last view was of his hand hesitating, no doubt as he was being told that someone else had paid for their breakfast, and then slowly starting to withdraw. I reached the end of the drive-through lane by then, and put my foot on the gas - I darted away as fast as I could, hoping that they hadn't even noticed my vehicle.
About a year ago, someone in the very same drive-through line-up paid for my order, and the cashier at the window told me that this gentleman paid for the car behind him every single morning; all he ever ordered was a medium coffee, but he always paid for someone else's meal. The cashier told me then that she had no idea why he did it, but that it seemed to give him great pleasure to think that he might have made someone's day a little brighter. It worked - that day was truly brighter for me. A number of weeks later, the next time I found myself in the drive-through, I echoed the gesture for someone else, and hoped that it made their day a bit better, too.
The idea of brightening someone else's day was my thoughts again a few days ago as I sped away. I felt like rubbing my hands together in delight, thinking/hoping that this couple might be just a little surprised and cheered by the tiny kindness of a stranger. I don't know what was going on for them that day, but I'm really hoping that the gesture lingers in their minds for as long as the gesture of a year ago has remained in my mind. I'll be doing it again.
What if we all did that one time in the next week?? Wouldn't that be an interesting investment in random acts of kindness?? If you do so, please comment here and let me know what it did for you!
* Nicole, I actually gasped when I read your comment about your neighbour's decision to do 100 random acts of kindness in 2009 - did he actually succeed?? And how utterly lovely to be the recipient of one of those acts - it's something you probably won't forget for a long time. What a great idea - it would certainly change one's focus somewhat, to be thinking about what random act one could do every three days or so. I LOVE it - I'm thinking about adopting it!! Oh, the more I think about that idea, the more I like it!!
* Thanks Kristin - isn't it totally AMAZING how one small kindness can leave such a lasting impression on us?? Imagine the impact we could all be having!