Last November, just weeks after I quit my job to stay home full time, the kids and I window shopped through one of our local malls. We ended up in the Disney store because I really wanted to buy Lucas a Mickey Mouse t-shirt for his upcoming Mickey Mouse themed birthday party.
I stood poring over my choices. I picked a shirt up and promptly put it back. It’s not that we couldn’t afford the shirt, but it didn’t seem like a real necessity in light of all the changes in our home. I pushed the stroller onward and shrugged it all off.
Just before I walked out of the store, a man approached me. He had something in his hand that he was trying to give me. I was so taken aback by him that I didn’t fully hear what he was saying at first. I finally realized he was trying to give me a gift card to the store.
“I’ve looked through this store at least five times. My kids are much older and I just can’t find anything they would want in here. Take this gift card and buy your kids something on me.”
I stared at him in disbelief. He pushed the card in my hand and hurried out the door before I could protest. Hot tears welled up in my eyes. This was such a generous and unexpected gift from a complete stranger.
I gathered my composure and walked back to the t-shirt display. I let Lucas pick out the shirt he wanted and we proceeded to the check out. After paying for the shirt, the cashier asked if I wanted the remainder left on the gift card or if I wanted cash back. I asked for the cash and she handed me $12.
As we were on our way out of the mall, I noticed a sign hanging on the door at Pottery Barn Kids: “Help us reach our goal for the day! Stop in and donate to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital!”
Immediately, I knew what we had to do. We took the change from the gift card and placed it in the donation bucket. It wasn’t our money anyway.
I practically floated out of the mall that day.
And honestly, life just went on. I remembered the kind stranger when we celebrated Lucas’s birthday a few weeks later, but the situation and the generosity sort of slipped my mind after that.
A few weeks ago, I sat in the Panera drive thru (which deserves a whole post of its own for how it has revolutionized my life!). The kids and I were headed to a playdate at the zoo and had a little extra time. I decided to swing through Panera for a bagel for the three of us to split and an iced tea for me. With my window rolled down, I mindlessly listened to the woman behind me place her order.
I don’t know why, but I suddenly got an urge to pay for her meal.
My first thought was, “That’s crazy.”
Followed shortly by, “People always say, “Pay for the person behind you in the drive thru,” but I’ve never heard of anyone actually doing it!”
And finally, “No one has ever paid for my meal at a drive thru!”
But, I quickly remembered the man at the Disney store and felt an even stronger tug to pay for this lady’s bagel and coffee.
The amount was insignificant and I have no way of knowing who that woman was. I’d like to think my small gesture brightened her day, but I’ll never know for sure. That’s not the point, really. This small act of generosity brightened my day and made me a better person.
I was able to pass on kindness to someone else. It felt wonderful and it was truly good for my soul.
I didn’t write this to toot my own horn. I hope you don’t think that’s the case! I just wanted to share how great it feels to be on both the receiving and giving end of a random act of kindness.
Our world is scary, cruel, and isolating, but we can restore humanity one generous act at a time. I hope that when you feel that “urge” to help someone, give something to someone, or show kindness to someone (whether you know the person or not), that you follow through with it. Not only will you bring someone else a bit of joy, you’ll find great joy in doing it, too. And if you are ever on the receiving end, be sure to pass the kindness onward.
Have you after been the recipient or the giver of a random act of kindness? What was it?
Life happens when we show kindness to others. Life happens when we pay it forward.
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