A simple act of kindness


So there I was, standing in a short line at a busy convenience store waiting to pay for the cup of coffee I was holding. The customer in front of me was purchasing an energy drink and a tin of chewing tobacco, so you know he is decades younger than me.

For some reason, his was a lengthy transaction as the clerk (even younger than the customer) located the brand and flavor of chew he wanted, rang up the sale, and then waited while the young man fumbled through his pockets to find the correct change–or probably his debit card.

I thought I was waiting quite patiently for all this to transpire. I didn’t stand too close to him or tap my foot or sigh loudly. At last I heard the cash register ring, as the clerk and the customer exchanged a thank you as he gathered up his goods and made a beeline for the door.

I stepped up to the counter, set down my coffee and had reached for my wallet before I heard the clerk say, “Oh, he paid for your coffee, ma’am,” as she nodded toward the door the customer had just exited. By then I saw his pickup speeding away.

This thoughtful gesture by a young man made me smile there in that convenience store on a gloomy, foggy Saturday, reinforcing my belief that it is often the simple things in our lives that make the biggest difference.

Several years ago the trendy phrase was “random acts of kindness,” and there were plenty of those–like my cup of coffee–taking place all around. Now it’s evolved into Good Deeds Day, with all kinds of activities taking place: cleaning beaches, teaching senior citizens about computers, cooking for good, hosting a blood drive or a community picnic.

I found out that the concept of random acts of kindness actually got started in a California restaurant in 1982 when a female customer wrote on a placemat “practice random acts of kindness and senseless acts of beauty.”

And yes, of course there is a Random Acts of Kindness Day, first created in 1995, that will be celebrated later this month on Sunday the 17th. That’s when we are all encouraged to make the world a better place by spreading a little light around. Simple gestures of kindness just may point us toward seeing the good in others.

I’m here to tell you that treating a stranger to their cup of coffee is a simple, unexpected act of kindness I certainly appreciated.