As I was picking up my coffee one frozen morning a few weeks ago, I noticed there was no one in the drive-through line behind me. That in itself was unusual. My caffeine supplier of choice generally drew a crowd this time of day. Order, rush to pay, rush to grab a cup, rush to work. Hour after hour. Car after car. I’m sure the drive-through clerks barely even noticed who was in the hundreds of vehicles that passed through.
But this morning felt different. It was one of those crisp Nebraska mornings where the sunrise was still throwing pinks and purples across the sky. I was feeling good. I had the drive-thru to myself. I felt talkative. “Good morning! How are you doing? Is your day going well?” I asked.
The shocked look on the clerk’s face was priceless. She smiled and said, “Um, it’s good. How are you?”
I kept looking in my rear-view mirror to make sure I wasn’t holding up progress, and I answered her. Then we actually chatted for a minute or two. About the weather. About the upcoming holidays. Nothing earth-shattering. Just quick small-talk. As I finally saw a car pull up to place an order, I smiled and said, “I really appreciate the good service I get here. Have a great day.”
The whole exchange lasted two minutes. Maybe.
I noticed the clerk watched my car drive away with a smile on her face, then she turned back to help the next customer.
Although the exchange was spontaneous, it was also uplifting. I suppose for my random act of kindness that day, I could have paid the tab for the next customer. That would have been easy, but anonymous. I had to wonder if giving a few minutes of time and treating the drive-through clerk with respect might have been the greater win, at least for me. She was charming, sweet and interesting. How long did she go before another customer took a second to ask her about her day and then wait for the answer? Hours? Days?
I suspect these kinds of simple exchanges are becoming more rare. We’ve become so inwardly-focused and driven by technology that we’ve forgotten how to take a moment to simply be human. To be kind.
I’m one of the few people who is not a big fan of the movie Avatar, although I enjoyed the special effects. There was one line that really stood out to me in that script. The two romantic leads were gazing at each other but rather than saying “I love you,” said “I see you.”
“I see you.” “I acknowledge you.” “I value you.”
“I appreciate you.”
What a precious and powerful thing to communicate to another person. Rather than looking past them, through them, around them… you actually look at them. You see them, and you recognize that they, like you, have their own struggles, challenges, or worries to deal with. Just like you. Every single day.
Can’t we just look up from our smartphones for a few minutes? Just take a second or two and really see the person who is serving you, or you are doing business with? Or sitting beside? And just…be kind? Not only will you leave the room better than you found it, you will be better, too. The gift of kindness, as is the case with most gifts, can bring as much joy to the giver as to the recipient.