I’ll never forget this particular stop I made to a Starbucks on my way to work one morning. At first this trip was nothing out of the ordinary. I walked inside to find a small line, headed by a lady who was indecisive about what she wanted to order.
You could tell people were getting slightly annoyed, some were on their way to work, others perhaps the gym, but the normalcy of people knowing what they wanted was thrown off, making the idea of having to wait an extra few minutes burdensome.
It was at that moment the lady made her choice, paid for her coffee and glanced over her shoulder to say hi and apologize to the woman standing behind her. With that she took her receipt, and stepped aside to wait for her drink.
What the woman standing in line behind her didn’t realize is this lady, the one who had us waiting in line for a few extra minutes, just paid for her drink.
After the barista explained her coffee had been paid for, the woman was left feeling both grateful and guilty. Grateful a stranger bought her a cup of coffee, and guilty that she, like the rest of us, got impatient with the extra few moments she stood in line for.
Because that time spent in line, while she waited impatiently, was actually due to a complete stranger in front of her buying her a cup of coffee.
We all do it, take moments for granted or become agitated when things don’t go exactly our way. We’ve become so accustomed to our fast-paced, on-the-go lives that we forget to stop and smell the coffee beans.
Whether it be work, school, or family life we tend to get so focused on what we have to get done next that we forget to live in the now.
This gentle and kind gesture of buying a stranger a coffee, completely selfless and done without any expectation of something in return, reminded me to slow down and appreciate that I can stand in line and buy a cup of coffee because I want it, not because I need it.
It reminded me that giving back is a selfless act and not one someone should do because they expect to get something in return. After witnessing the exchange of smiles, the kind ‘thank you’ expressed, I realized that an act of charity can come in the smallest, most unexpected packages, and deliver a grand result.
It’s the simple act of paying it forward that reminds us we’re social creatures. We need love, compassion and kindness. Naturally, humans thrive in communities where they feel accepted and respected, but more importantly, they thrive in a community.
It’s through giving back that we remind ourselves what it’s like to be human, social creatures who need physical interaction and a sense of belonging to a community. And it’s through the community that we form friendships and make a difference through engaging in actions that are impactful and helpful for those involved.
Perhaps we all can take a page from this mystery woman’s handbook. We can all learn through her simple act of kindness what it means to have patience, act kindly and give selflessly.
But perhaps most importantly we must remember that all it takes is one person to create a ripple effect. Because after this woman bought her a coffee, I watched each person approach the barista and ask if they could pay for the coffee belonging to the person behind them.