Last Thursday morning, I dashed through a fast food drive-through to get breakfast on my way to work. I’ve been doing much better about that, but this particular morning I needed to cheat. When I pulled up to pay, the woman stationed at the window said, “Your breakfast has been paid for by the person in the car in front of you. Would you like to pass along the kindness to the customer behind you?” Taken aback, I said that I would. Feeling like I was part of a joy-spreading caper, I paid for the next person’s food. As the employee handed me my change, she offered that I was the 11th person in a row to agree to pass along the treat to the one who followed. She remarked that this was the highest number of people at their location who had ever agreed to keep the giving going. We shared a “moment” as we basked together in the warmth of human kindness.
I knew I wanted to write about my experience, so I went back to the same place Saturday morning to see if I could find the lady who had helped me. I reminded her that I had been there Thursday and that I was the 11th car to participate in the giving chain. I asked her how long they had been able to keep the experience going. With a great big smile, she said, “You won’t believe it! 65 consecutive customers participated in offering the gift. 65!” Wow! I had not expected the number to be that high. I was thrilled to learn what had happened.
Okay, so paying for someone’s meal in a fast food restaurant is not a world-changing gesture…or is it? I know that my day was brighter because of my experience, and in response to the unexpected, I consciously tried to share delight the rest of the day. Hopefully I was successful a few times, so it is possible that I brought joy to more people than I would have if I had not been so keenly aware of what it feels like to receive grace. Again, I know that I am talking fast food, but stay with me. The unanticipated element of the gesture was wonderful, but it had to start somewhere. What if we became people who looked around and intentionally sought out places to extend happiness? What if we had our eyes open, not to see what is going wrong in the world, but to look for a place where we can offer something right? If we began to look for ways to joyfully give, is it possible that we could change at least our little corner of the world? And maybe change ourselves in the process?
Giving is not without risk. Wonder if I agree to pay for the next person’s meal and it ends up costing more than mine would have cost? Wonder if I pass along the kindness to the next person and he or she refuses to distribute it any further? Does it cheapen my gesture if it is not received with grace or not shared with yet another? I can honestly say that the satisfaction that I experienced when giving outweighed any possible downside that could have come along. It just felt really good to be part of the movement of grace. The idea of performing random acts of kindness is certainly not a new one, but when you are the recipient of the gesture, believe me, it feels new.
In his letter to the Philippians, the Apostle Paul invites his friends to spend their time concentrating on things that are from God. He writes, “Finally, beloved, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things…and the God of peace will be with you.” (4:8-9) Way before fast food was ever dreamed of, Paul understood what it takes to begin to get outside of ourselves. We start to see where we can spread glee by first setting our minds on the things of God. When we get in the habit of looking for the holy, we can find it, and we can participate in it. I have the feeling that I am not the only person who is weary of the seemingly constant bickering and dissension going on in our world. Please forgive me for writing about something so “light” when there are so many heavy things going on, that without a doubt, need our attention. But, if like me, you need a little break from it all, find a way to scatter joy. I promise you, you will get the lift you need. And who knows? Maybe our kindnesses will change the world after all.
Love and blessings, LuAnn