COMMENTARY

Service with a Smile

Random act of kindness no small matter

By Hilary Berg

Ever been in a drive-through to discover a complete stranger has paid for your order? This has happened to me twice. Once for a coffee years ago, and the other just recently for an iced tea and some food for my “starving” child.

The kind man, all smiles and making eye contact with me as he drove off, had no idea I was headed to a funeral for a dear friend’s sibling who had died far too young.

I asked the drive-through worker if this happens often. All smiles, she said, “Yes.” She explained how people have burst into tears at the small gesture that, at the time, seems anything but inconsequential. Personally, I didn’t cry, but I understand that reaction. 

Smiling, I informed the woman that I’d like to “pay it forward” with the car behind me. “No can do; he paid for that one, too.” So I settled on the order two cars back. I gave her my card and gratefully received our food.

As I’m driving away, I watched the worker explaining the customer’s good fortune. The employee was giddy at this point; and the recipient of my modest gift was, you guessed it, all smiles. 

Charity comes packaged in all shapes and sizes. From donating money to giving your time by volunteering, every “hand” offered initiates a ripple effect of positivity that’s hard to stop, impossible to track.

Even the smallest interactions — holding a door open for someone, being nice to a struggling waiter, etc. — engender positive impacts on both giver and receiver.

In "Charitable Bunch," writer Mark Stock explores the magnanimity of Oregon winery owners, some of the best “givers” I know. Through their philanthropic endeavors, they are making a difference, causing a reverberation of kindness and awareness that’s almost infectious.

It all starts with one. One guy in a Lexus buying food for complete strangers on a random Saturday morning.

“The smallest act of kindness is worth more than the grandest intention.” —Oscar Wilde.

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