A few weeks ago I was sitting in a local Starbucks waiting for a friend when I heard a gentle voice behind me.
The voice exuded kindliness and comfort.
“Hello,” the voice said, “I couldn’t help but notice you sitting by yourself in the corner and you look like you’re having a really bad day so I thought I would ask if a cup of coffee would make you feel better?”
It seems a young lady was sitting at the table behind me. I had not noticed her when I arrived.
What followed next was quite extraordinary.
A sad, pained voice acknowledged she was having a really bad day.
There was a brief conversation and the lady walked over to the counter, returned with two coffees in a cardboard tray in one hand and a bag of goodies in the other.
“Well Hon, why don’t we girls take advantage of the beautiful weather and go sit on the bench out there and have a little chat, shall we?”
My friend arrived just in time to hold the door open for them as they headed out into the sunshine.
I shared with him what I had just witnessed and we spent the entire 45 minutes of our meeting alternating between social chatting and staring at the two ladies on the bench.
Just as we were leaving I glanced outside and noticed the young lady affectionately hugging her bench-mate as she stood up and, with a pleasant smile on her face, strode off across the street.
The other lady was still sitting on the bench as I walked by and I felt compelled to stop and talk with her.
I asked her what had driven her to approach a perfect stranger and offer coffee and comfort which, from my observation post inside Starbucks, was much needed and greatly appreciated.
Her story touched me deeply.
Several years ago she had been sitting by herself in a small, dank hospital waiting room. She had just been told that her husband of 16 years, her best friend and confidant, would not survive the impact of being struck by a drunk driver while in a crosswalk.
She was numb, her mind struggling to comprehend the enormity of what she had been told while her body slowly shut down.
She couldn’t think clearly. She felt like she was caught up in a bad dream from which she could not awaken.
She didn’t know what to do or who to call. They had recently moved here and had yet to establish any friendships.
She doesn’t remember how long she had been sitting there before she became aware of someone sitting beside her and placing a gentle hand on her arm.
She recalls looking at the kindest face she had ever seen. And she will never forget the first words she heard out of that gentle man’s mouth.
With a sweet smile he said, “You look like you could use a cup of coffee so I brought you one.”
He continued. “If you want to talk, I have all the time in the world. If you want me to go away, I will leave and if you just want to sit together and say nothing, that’s fine too.”
She opened her mouth to respond to the words just poured out; the story, the tears, the fears, the pain, the anger – everything.
And he didn’t say a word. He just listened and occasionally reached over and handed her a fresh Kleenex.
Sometime later a doctor came and took her to a small office where she was told her husband had passed away.
She asked permission to see him and shortly thereafter made her way back to the lounge where she had left her coat.
He was sitting there waiting for her with a fresh cup of coffee.
And he sat with her for several hours until she felt ready to go home. When they said goodbye he gave her a piece of paper with a phone number to call you be if she needed anything or just wanted a “huge pair of ears to talk into.”
She never saw him again but when she went back to the hospital several weeks later to retrieve some of her husband’s possessions she asked the staff who he was.
His wife had been a patient for the past six months. She had been in a coma ever since falling down a flight of stairs while leaving a movie theater.
Her husband, the kindly gentleman, visited her bedside every day and sat holding her hand for hour after hour gently talking to her, telling her how much he loved her and how he was looking forward to her coming home and doing all the things they’ve always enjoyed doing together.
And whenever he left her side and encountered another person in distress he always offered comfort and company for as long as needed.
She learned he has spent many an hour just being there as a kind and caring source of comfort to strangers trying to cope with devastating loss.
Her life had been changed by one man who, in the hour of her greatest need, offered kindness and comfort simply because he cared.
She vowed to do the same.
It is her mission to perform a random act of kindness every single day. Sometimes it means buying coffee for a stranger, sometimes it means paying for a senior’s groceries at the store and sometimes it means simply offering “a huge pair of ears to talk into.”
As she was leaving she told me that as much as she knows her acts of kindness benefits others, she has become the greatest beneficiary of her kind deeds.
She explained there is no greater reward than the feeling of fulfillment that comes from simply helping others or just merely being there for them.
It has become her raison d’etre.
She walked away and I realized I didn’t even get the name of one of the greatest teachers I have ever had.
She taught me the importance of adopting a habit I had never even thought of, The Habit of Kindness and Caring.
I know I will never be able to impact as many people as she has, but I also know this; I am going to try my hardest.
Imagine if we all did this.
Let’s make a habit of meeting like this.
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