My daughter called to say she was stopping at Starbucks and would pick up drinks for me and my wife. It’s a great day when the kids remember the old folks at home, although my first thought is usually, “What do they want in return?”
I took advantage of her offer and ordered a vanilla latte — mucho grande. And how about one of those berry, yogurt and granola concoctions that cost as much as major dental work? (Would I have to report this gift as income to the IRS or the state of Connecticut?)
When she arrived, I pulled out my wallet and said, “Let me pay. How much do I owe you?”
“Nothing,” she replied
“I want to pay.”
“No need to. Someone else did.”
When she reached the drive-up window, the girl told her, “The man in front of you already paid.”
Who was that masked man? The Lone Ranger? Who does something like that?
It was an anonymous act of kindness by a fellow in a Honda who wanted to “pay it forward,” my daughter said, by picking up the tab for three expensive drinks for a young woman he didn’t even know. And he didn’t even hang around for a thank you.
What’s the world coming to when complete strangers are paying your bills and don’t want anything in return?
Was this an outbreak of kindness? Would it spread? Was it transmittable by mosquitoes?
I savored my vanilla latte, not because it was free but because it was a gift from a person who was inspired to do something kind without fanfare, recognition or reimbursement.
My mother often said that kindness is its own reward, to which I would usually reply, “That’s why so few people are kind.” But my view has changed. I’m convinced that acts of kindness will receive an eternal reward far beyond what we can imagine. I’m also convinced that acts of kindness are contagious and hold our tottering, fragile world together. Without them, we’d live in perpetual despair. They’re proof the world can be a better place and that all of us have the power to make it a better place if we want to.
Why do we need kindness? Because regardless of our differences of opinion, our personality differences and our political differences, we’re all weary spiritually and emotionally. We’ve been beaten down by the anger and incivility in our entertainment, social media and politics, by the rudeness and hostility in our families and workplaces. We need less quarreling and more kindness.
Just as anger can spread like pink eye in a preschool, kindness can spread, too. For example, one kind act by one customer at a McDonald’s in southern Indiana sparked a chain reaction that lasted for the better part of a day.
As the Associated Press reported, “Hunter Hostetler is a cashier at a McDonald’s in Scottsburg, about 50 miles north of Louisville, Kentucky. He says an older woman waiting in the restaurant’s drive-thru decided to pay for the big order of a man with four children in a van behind her. Hostetler says she asked him to tell the man, ‘Happy Father’s Day,’ then drove away.”
But that one act wasn’t the end of the story because the man in the van was inspired to pay for two cars behind him, and by closing time, a total of 167 people had performed generous acts of kindness by paying for others.
Here’s a secret, which you may not believe: We WANT to be kind. We NEED to be kind. It’s in our DNA. We were created for kindness not for selfishness. Only when we help others, do we feel truly genuine. We feel good about ourselves and about our fellow man and woman. Our spiritual health and physical health improve.
A woman in one of the cars at the Indiana drive-thru had this to say: “There’s still a lot of great people out there.”
I should add that my daughter, who has been the recipient of many kind acts, also exercises her constitutionally guaranteed right to make others happy. She has been inspired to pay it forward. She paid for a man who held the door for her at the coffee shop. Someone paid her toll and she paid someone else’s toll. And she buys lattes for her father.
An aura of goodness surrounds you when you open yourself up to doing acts of kindness, which inspire other people to do the same thing. And here’s another secret: the giving is more rewarding than the getting.
You may contact Joe Pisani at firstname.lastname@example.org