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Sometimes it’s just not easy to be kind. After all, some days are just rotten and it’s oh, so easy to let the crabby flow. I have been there so many times in life. Yet as I get older, I find myself trying harder and harder to practice kindness. I have discovered that a little bit of kindness not only has the power to make someone else’s day brighter, but usually mine as well. Last spring around this time I had a little close encounter with fame through a kind gesture. You definitely want to read A MEIJER STORY…
It Really Does Pay to be Nice…
Recently I gave my 2-week notice at my day job so I could concentrate on blogging and working my photography business full-time. I have also taken on a small new photography job with the local public school. I get to zip into the schools and take a few quick pictures of the kids using items that they were gifted through a local grant. It’s a super fun gig, and I’m loving it, but until I’m finished at the day job, I’m rockin’ 3 jobs and still being a wife and raising one of my five kiddos at home (the other four are all grown up), so life is a bit hectic.
This afternoon I made my way into my fifth new school of the week, one I haven’t been in before, and wandered through the building to find three classrooms full of kids and teachers I don’t know and photograph them. I am a people person, but if I’m being perfectly honest, it’s a teensy bit out of my comfort zone interrupting the routine of a classroom full of strangers and taking quick photos in a rush.
Also, today I started saying goodbye to some of the friends I’ve spent my days with over the last ten years. Overall, I was feeling a little stressed out and blue when I saw the Starbucks sign glimmering up ahead on the side of the road. Starbucks can be pricey, so I don’t usually treat myself, especially right now knowing that this change in my employment will have some financial repercussions. Every penny must be accounted for in my new budget, and Starbucks is a luxury item. Never-the-less, I decided to treat myself. Today felt like a good day to be kind to ME.
As I pulled in, I took note of the 5 or 6 cars lined up in the drive-thru and decided that since the service at this location is usually pretty efficient, it was worth a five- or ten-minute wait to get my hands on my favorite drink. Nothing quite beats a Venti Chai Tea Latte on ice when the weather starts feeling like Spring here in Michigan.
Trapped in a Drive Through
This is as good a time as any to point out that this drive-through has those cement curbs around it that lead you through, so once you have decided to get in line you are truly committed. Unless you want to take your car for a 4-wheeling off-road experience to get over the barricades, you’ll be staying in line ‘til you reach the window. I made my decision and pulled into the line, I took a quick look at the time on my dashboard to ensure I wouldn’t be late arriving home to get the kiddo off the bus. I had about 20 minutes… More than enough time to grab my Chai and make the half mile drive home.
As I inched my way slowly to the ordering microphone, I decided to peek at the back of my camera to review some of the shots I had just gotten at the school. That finished, I checked the time, and decided to read an article out of the latest local Chamber of Commerce magazine that was tucked in next to my seat. Check. Now what? I decided to tinker with my iPhone and listen to my favorite song (I may or may not have drummed my steering wheel a bit while belting out Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody ).
In between each time killer, I took note that the clock was moving, but my car wasn’t. My nerves were frazzling a bit more with each tick of the minute hand, but I took comfort from the sun shining on my head and the smell of fresh spring air wafting through the open window. I reminded myself that waiting for a coffee shop beverage is certainly a first world problem. There are people around the world who don’t even have clean water to drink, and here I was getting stressed over a long wait for a specialty drink. I reminded myself to keep perspective and I put on another song.
All total I was in line for well over 20 minutes. That is a loooooooong time to wait – much longer than the 5-6 cars in front of me called for. I was feeling pretty ornery and vowed to point out the ridiculous wait time to the employee at the window. When I finally arrived, the Barista stuck her frazzled head out the window and immediately offered her apologies for the long wait. She said in a panicked sort of voice, “I’m soooooo sorry! It’s been crazy here!” I immediately realized that she was probably having a day as stress-filled as mine and shifted my attitude. I answered that it was no problem and a beautiful day to enjoy a sit in the car.
With relief she responded quickly, “Oh thank you for understanding. All of our computer systems went down. We’re trying to get them back up, but it doesn’t seem to be working. Do you mind if I take your card inside the store to ring it at a register rather than at the window? I promise I’ll bring you a receipt.” Apparently, there are people who don’t care for their card to be out of their site for this sort of emergency.
“Always be a little kinder than necessary.” -James M. BarrieJames M. Barrie
Free Drinks are the Best Drinks!
Of course, I was riding the high of finally making it to the window after that long wait, so she could’ve taken my card to Europe for all I cared. My Chai was mere seconds away from reaching my fingertips, so with a friendly smile, I told her it was no problem. She apologized once more and assured me again that she would bring me a receipt and said she’d be right back as quick as a wink. After about two minutes she returned looking even more distressed. “I’m so sorry” she said, “NONE of my machines seem to be working right now… I tried them all. But since you’ve been so kind and understanding I’m just going to give you your drink on the house today. Have a great day and enjoy the sunshine!”
Now perhaps she had given away every drink before me for free, or perhaps she was being truthful and only choosing to give mine free. I will never know, but I am going to choose to believe that kindness repays kindness. Because I had greeted her with a smile and a “no problem” instead of the justifiable anger and irritation I could have dished out, she repaid me with my order on the house. It may not be a free new car or an all-expense paid vacation, but on this day, it was just the thing I needed to give me a smile.
When I decided to put away my stress and frustration about the long wait and focus on making her day a little less stressful, I was rewarded. I think that’s the best Venti Chai Tea Latte on ice that I’ve ever had, not just because it was free, but because it represented two people working hard to get through a rough day and practicing kindness toward one another. Your reward may not come in the form of free coffee, but I promise you will be rewarded!