First of all, this is not a good story. It doesn’t put me in a good light. But I will risk your impression of me and tell it anyway.
On this particular day I (Lisa) was in a hurry as I approached the drive up lane at Starbucks. My mind was wandering through all my checklists but I promised my daughter-in-law I would pick up an iced coffee. I had just finished spending an amazing morning with my four-year old grand daughter, Adelyn and I was on my way to take her back home. I was engaged in conversation with my traveling companion in the back seat, fumbling through my phone to find the precise coffee cocktail order to tell the barista on the intercom. The barista waited patiently for my response. Finally, it all came together. Coffee was ordered, Adelyn conversation had resumed, and now I was just waiting for the car in front to pull forward. I fumbled for my Starbucks Gold Card as I proceeded to the window to pay. Upon arrival, the barista handed me my drink and said, “Your coffee has been covered by the person who was in front of you, have a good day.”
I had just been the recipient of an amazing act of kindness. You can only guess what I did next. Stunned, I responded so gratefully with, “you’re kidding, that is amazing, wow, thank you!” and then I proceeded to drive away. Are you as shocked with my response as I was? I got about fifty yards away and it hit me, what did I just do? Actually, what didn’t I just do? In my shocked state of mind, I missed an incredible opportunity to bless the people in the car behind me and pay this kindness forward.
Driving away, I was haunted by my lack of gratefulness and generosity. This was not like me. I had missed a significant moment. I love doing these kinds of things for other people. I arrived at my daughter-in-law, Michelle’s house and immediately I had to confess what just happened. I thought I’d hear consoling words of affirmation, something like, “that’s ok, you’ve been that person who has done this for others before, so, you missed one”. I was not expecting her response. Instead of comforting words, I heard, “You probably just stopped a long line of people paying it forward. You probably stopped the movement.” Ouch. That stung. Now I felt even worse than before.
That night at dinner my husband and I were having a conversation, catching up on our day. I looked at him and said, “I have a confession to make. I did something bad by not doing something good.” I then proceeded to tell him my traumatizing story. Again, I was hoping for soothing words to flow from my beloved husband. What I got was not what I expected. Without missing a beat, he said, “You probably stopped a movement.” Had he and Michelle collaborated? Why did this never cross my mind?
I really don’t know if I did stop a movement that day or how long it had been going. Ending a movement of kindness is not what I want to do (nor who I am), rather I want to be the person who starts one. How many of our actions and responses might be stopping a movement, stopping something significant that is blessing other people? Do our words, written or verbal, discourage or deflate someone from continuing on? Does our unwillingness to respond or share resources deter someone from pressing forward? How we respond matters – for the good or bad.
Side Note: Before this blog was published, I drove through Starbucks and tried to redeem myself by paying for the person behind me. I don’t know if I started another movement or how long it went on. I only know I was compelled to make it happen and do what I could. Instead of dwelling on past misses, deciding to make a change now is what matters. What change do you need to make now to either stop or make a movement in your life?