Sometimes an opportunity presents itself and without thinking, we just react. We jump right into action without thinking about how it might affect another person but it feels right, so we do it.
I was just in line at Starbucks at the Copley Marriott in Boston. I was staring at the menu trying to decide what I wanted. I’d been in that same line for the past three mornings because it’s my favorite way to start the day — with a coffee.
The other three mornings I was in a rush with just the right amount of cash in my hand to make my purchase and just enough time to grab my coffee and walk a couple of blocks to the T station in order to get to my conference on time.
This morning I had woken up a little earlier so I had time to get a coffee before I packed my belongings to leave the hotel for the last time.
Unlike most mornings, I barely noticed the man in front of me until I heard a sigh of disappointment. Apparently he thought he could charge his purchase to his room bill and since Starbucks is a separate entity from the hotel, it wasn’t an option. I then heard him say that he would try using Apple Pay but he couldn’t get the app to work since he’d never used it before. With a look of frustration, he told the clerk he would have to go retrieve his wallet from his room.
Without thinking about it, I slipped my debit card into the card reader, I looked at the man and said “I got you.”
I never say that and thought about how cliche it sounded the second the words left my lips. Before today, I’d been paying for everything in cash so I considered it to be fate that I had my card.
The look on his face was worth the $5 and some change I paid for his coffee and snack. I’m certain this hadn’t happened to him before after seeing the look of complete shock on his face. He immediately negated the need for me to pay for his purchase but I assured him it wasn’t a big deal. The clerk appeared even more surprised when I reached the counter to place my own order.
“That was REALLY nice of you,” she said. I again told her that it wasn’t a big deal and it made me feel happy to do it.
As I walked over to the drink retrieval area the man approached me. He said “Thank you again, you just changed my entire outlook on this whole week.”
I wondered for a few seconds about what he meant and then it hit me.
All week I had made the observation that Boston is a town that seems to prefer introversion. I’d noticed all week while riding on public transportation that most commuters wear headphones and only look down at their phones and reading materials.
The only time it felt appropriate to wish someone a good morning was at the hotel as I left each day. The security guard and I always made eye contact. During my travels to and from my conference, no one else spoke to me all week. It was a strange feeling for me.
Perhaps this man had felt the same way. We didn’t speak about it. He asked me where I was from and I told him. I also shared that it was my last day in town and I had been attending a four-day conference.
I didn’t share with him why I was in town, but I had attended a certification program for the Myers Briggs Type Indicator. I’d spent the last four days interpreting and dissecting personality type so that I could be fluent in administering the tool in schools and corporate settings.
None of it mattered in the present moment, except that I did realize that even though we all have different personality preferences, one thing will remain constant. The importance of kindness.
Kindness isn’t attached to any one personality type. It can flow freely among all people.
Putting one’s self out there to exhibit kindness can and will change the course of another person’s day. I chatted with the man for a few minutes after that, and then we went our separate ways. It was a tiny gesture that made a huge impact.
Today, yet again, I received the affirmation that kindness in our busy world is sometimes forgotten.
The human connection, albeit it sometimes short and sweet, is important. Looking up away from our phones and sharing a smile or even a quick hello can make an impact.
My day has been made better by a stranger that I will never see again.
Kindness is free, so sprinkle that stuff everywhere.
Jennifer Lague writes from Derry.