On Changing the World

Summer in our area means sunshine and heat waves and the occasional thunderstorm. It means long days and barbecues and pool parties. It means hiking and biking and swimming. Most importantly (for me, anyway), it means delicious fresh produce – specifically, tomatoes, peaches, strawberries, green beans, and basil. I love the bounty of this season and so do my taste buds, and so most Saturday mornings find me at the local farmers’ market, filling my bag with yummy goodness.

This past weekend was no different. I bundled Katie into her car seat and checked to be sure I had cash, reusable shopping bags, and the Ergo (the three essential elements for a successful trip), and we were off. Jonathan was away from home on Friday night and I was feeling somewhat sleep-deprived and in need of a little pick-me-up, so I swung through the drive-through of the local Starbucks on my way there.
There was a line, of course (when is there not a line at that place?), and so we sat and we waited. Not for long – with the exception of the car right in front of me, things actually moved pretty quickly – but long enough for Katie to begin to get antsy. In her world, vehicles are wonderful and calming places to be, but only if they are moving, constantly moving. Stop lights and crosswalks and drive-throughs? These are terrible, terrible things, designed to cause misery and sorrow and suffering. So I stroked her head, and sang silly little songs, and made sure her pacifier was firmly in place in the hopes that I might keep her from realizing that we were sitting still, all the while drumming my fingers on the steering wheel, wondering why it was taking the grandfatherly gentleman in front of me so long to pay and get his drink and leave.
Leave he finally did, and I pulled up to take his place, window rolled down and ready to go. I tried to hand the barista my card, anxious to get my drink and get moving again, but she smiled, shook her head.
“The guy in front of you paid for your order!”
I blinked, stuttered a “Wow, that was kind of him!” (“I know! Wasn’t that nice?” she responded), took the drink she proffered, and pulled away in a bit of a daze.
(As I was relating this story to Jonathan, he asked if I had paid for the person behind me. I should have, but I am ashamed to admit that I did not, that I did not even think of it, that I was so surprised by this random act of kindness and embarrassed by my attitude and rushed by the ever-increasing sounds of agitation from the back seat that it didn’t occur to me to pass it on.)
Why had it taken him so long at the drive-through window? Because he was doing something generous for me, a stranger who didn’t even see his face, who would be unable to thank him for his kindness.
It didn’t cost him much – a few moments of time, a few dollars for a caffeinated drink – but it was generous, and unexpected, and undeserved. It cheered the barista, brought a smile to my face, inspired a change in my attitude – small things, yes, but with the potential to snowball into other relationships, other interactions.
He bought a stranger a drink. It was nothing earth-shattering or momentous. It didn’t address big issues. It was something he might not have thought of again once it was done, but it made this small corner of the planet a better place, at least for a moment.
And maybe that’s the best way to change the world.

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