Sunday, January 14, 2007

pay it forward

"A random act of kindness is a selfless act performed by kind people to either help or cheer up a stranger, for no reason other than to make people happier." Wikipedia

It had been a particularly grueling couple of months. We’ve all been there; you know what it’s like. The summer was whizzing by in a swirl of non-stop pressure. I was dealing with unrealistic deadlines on top of an already overloaded work schedule; impossible divas that created chaos out of everything and nothing; and a negaholic team member who suddenly baled, leaving the rest of us up the wazoo.

In addition, I had company to take care of, and was in the process of moving both home and studio.

There was no escape. Emails at 1 am, phone conferences at 5 am, and 14-hour days right through the weekend so I could take a day off to entertain my company and show them what a great place Seattle is, and how good life is—usually.

I knew I was about to erupt. And since my typically refined British manners restrain me from letting loose Bette Midler style—at least in anger—that eruption would be have been a quiet but very hot, fierce whoosh of steam.

I thought about hiding in the janitor’s closet just to get a few minutes peace, but instead, ran downstairs to my car, slammed it into gear, and screeched off to Starbucks. (Oh yeah, just what you need in that state, more caffeine.)

I tapped my thumbs on the steering wheel stuffing down my impatience at the custard colored Toyota truck hovering in front of me. Who buys custard colored cars?

His left winker blinked; he false-started a left turn, a right turn, another left, then made a sharp right. “Bleepety blanketing ijeet … get outta my way! Ijeet!” (Oh, didn’t I say? It’s perfectly acceptable for one to do a Bette in the relative anonymity of one's car.)

I pulled into the line for Starbucks’ drive through. Eight cars in front of me. How fast is the line moving? Can I afford to wait? While I’m making up my mind, the line shunts forward a couple of cars and now I’m trapped. So I wait. And I wait. And Mt. Vesuvius starts sputtering.

Grande caramel macchiato, extra hot, extra caramel. Please.” I open the ashtray to grab my pre-paid coffee bucks card, and drive up to the cashier.
He leans out the window, “How did your day go?
Terrific, how about yours?” I ask.

He smiles, “Put your card away, the customer in front of you paid for your drink today.”

? … ? Why?” Stupid thing to ask, but that’s what popped out.

Just a random act of kindness. He wanted to do something nice for someone. And hopes you enjoy.”

… Wow … that’s … nice.” I’m speechless.

That stranger’s random act of kindness—paying for my $4.25 cup of coffee—stopped me in my tracks.

Instead of racing back to the source of my tension, as I felt I should, I decided to regroup and drove down the hill to Lake Sammamish. I walked across the field to the beach and sat on the wall overlooking the water, gently savoring every sip of my extra hot, extra caramel macchiato.
When my cell phone rang, I muted it; thirty minutes peace-time wasn’t going to break the bank. I crossed my legs in a loose Lotus pose, closed my eyes, and listened.

Seagulls squabbled at my feet posturing for leftovers. A seaplane growled to silence as it pulled against its dock. Canadian geese cried their goodbyes as they took flight for the day. Waves lapped against the shore, grating smaller pebbles over larger ones. And somewhere there—as the wind gently whispered around my head and shoulders, cooling the warmth of the early evening sun—I heard the unmistakable screech of a bald eagle.

I thank that stranger, whose random act of kindness, saved my day and made my week. I'm sure the people around me silently thanked him too! And I hope, very sincerely, that when I paid it forward, my random act of kindness made a little difference to someone else's week. It did to mine.

(Thanks to Kiyotoe whose pre-holiday post reminded me of this day.)

PS... I just switched my Blog to the New GOOGLE Blogger and the comments now show anonymous instead of people's pix and names ... anyone else had this issue? ~v


Anonymous said...

Another angel story... something must have spoken in the drivers ear that said... the lady behind you needs some grace extended to her today.. and you are the chosen vessel.

Man.. I hope I get chosen..... unfortunately we never get to know what our act produces.

Thanks for reminding me to listen and to act.

mist1 said...

I paid several strangers a random act of kindness today. I didn't even leave the house. It was for the best.

Ces Adorio said...

Bibi!!! This is a fantastic story. I enjoyed reading every word of it. What a great day after all. Oh by the way, I love how you swear and I can visualize the fingers tapping. This is a great story told in such a captivating manner

Anonymous said...

LOL, I can just imagine you fuming behind that calm exterior. What a lovely ending to the day.

Bibi said...

Pamela, what a lovely thought. It was a good reminder for myself too.

Mist1, you know, sometimes that's the best thing you can do. ;-)

Ces, thank you ... of course I don't cuss like that every day, LOL.

Pete, yes, they say still waters run deep!

Anonymous said...

everywhere she goes, Mist makes me laugh.

Glad I could help bring back such a good memory. Consider it my way of giving back after the several times I've been here and been inspired to write something/anything, just as long as i wrote it well.

I wanna be just like you when I grow up ;) And I definitely want to move to Seattle.

Anonymous said...

Hey V-

Take deep breaths and sit by the water, even when you don't have the time. I have to remind myself to take those moments out before I explode. And yes, I've had a number of kindnesses pointed my way over the years, and I try to make sure that I drop them in my wake every now and then. It's part of the brighter side of being human.


Bibi said...

Kiyotoe, yes, Mist has a great sense of humor. And how sweet are you?!? Thank you ... although I still haven't grown up and doubt I ever will at this point. ;-) (The great man retains his childheart and all that jazz.) I have to say, I appreciate the well-written philosohpies on life you've shared along the way.

PS. Seattle's snowed in right now, and it looks so pretty.

Yaz, you know me ... that's exactly what I do ... put me by water, on a boat, in a kayak, on the back of a horse, and every care in the world falls away. Hugs back.

Anonymous said...

Ah, these are the stories that bring me back from the abyss of jaded cynicism...

And I really like the idea of the catalyst propelling you into that sense of calm.

What did you do to pay it forward? (If you don't mind me asking... :o)

Anonymous said...

BTW, Vicki, you inspired me:


WithinWithout said...

Fantastic little tale, Bibi, also makes me want to pay it forward to. But I'm with ant: what did YOU then do to pay it forward?


Bibi said...

Ant, glad there's still a chink of hope in that dark abyss ;-)

WW - I know, I keep meaning to do it again because you can't fail to lift yourself at the same time.

WW and Ant, I paid the check anonymously for an elderly couple at a family restaurant who looked in bad shape (health and life wise). Could have been millionaires for all I know, but when I went to the same place the following week, the waiter recognized me and said they were really shocked and that I'd made their day.

And it made me feel good too ... I think it's the 'surprise / anonymous' element. ;-)

Anonymous said...

This is so beautifully written!


Anonymous said...

We have become such an isolated culture. Wouldn't it be great if we all did one act of random kindness. Could you see what a shift would occur in consciousness?

Anonymous said...

There are people all over the world who practice random acts of kindness every friday because they joined a guy called Danny.

Maybe your 'angel' was a joinee!

Anonymous said...

Wow! Thanks for sharing this.

Amazing what a change in perspective can accomplish?

P.S. I want your coffee.

Keshi said...

Truly inspirational!


Bibi said...

Jenny, thank you ... appreciate your input!

Anon, it surely would. It has to be sincere, or heartfelt, and then the giver benefits probably even more than the receiver.

Leanne, I'll check Danny out ... thanks for the link.

MIchelle, yes ... and how quickly one's perspective or paradigm can shift!

Keshi, hey there ... and thank you!

MSU gal said...

great post and reminder that little acts of kindness create ripples of good will.

Anonymous said...

Washington? I grew up in Spokane and lived in the Bellevue/Redmond area for a couple of years.

anyway, great blog! I loved the "winker blinked" part. I've never heard it called a winker, but I think I'm going to use that from now on.

Anonymous said...

Actually, bringing us squarely back to jaded cynicism, that'd probably be the reason I'd pay it forward: because it makes *me* feel good. No such thing as a self-less act... :o)

But my mum's rationale is that the motive doesn't matter - it's what you do that counts...

Bibi said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Bibi said...

Ant, yeah, there is definitely intrinsic reward in any genuinely offered good deed ... how can you *not* feel good when you've done something to brighten someone else's day?

The jaded part comes in if you "act" in anticipation of the intrinsic reward or offer the deed as a way of achieving personal recognition.

And I'm sure we both know folks who play that self-motivated role ... but don't let that jade you even more ... ;-D

Bibi said...

msugal86, and don't we need that good will right now ... let's ripple all over. ;-)

Rach, yes, WA. I lived and work in Bell/Red. Glad you liked 'winker' ... was going to replace since they don't use that term here, but it's what I've always called it.

Bibi said...

Testing new Google blogger ...