I was on my way home from work last week when my brain reminded me that we were out of milk. My brain rarely reminds me of anything these days, so this was remarkable in and of itself. I reluctantly pulled into the huge grocery store a few minutes from my house. If there’s one thing I detest, it’s shopping at this store; it’s never stocked well, the lines are always long, and I usually end up forgetting something and have to walk to the other end of the store to get it.
I quickly grabbed the milk and got into the express lane. Although I still had a bad attitude, I was immediately curious about the two elderly ladies in front of me in line. They were obviously together, they didn’t appear to be purchasing anything, and one of them was holding a shopping bag with a wrapped Christmas gift in it.
I was in a hurry, so I hoped that whatever they were up to wouldn’t take long, but what happened next made me forget both the milk and the line I was standing in.
When the cashier saw them, she greeted them with a smile of recognition, and the ladies quietly told her that they had brought her a gift – a Christmas present on an ordinary day in the middle of the week. The cashier was stunned. “For me? You brought a gift for me??” Her eyes filled with tears, and she came around the other side of the register to hug them both.
They were gone as quickly as they had come, and it was my turn to buy the milk. The cashier was openly crying by now, and she said over and over to me, “I can’t believe someone cared enough to bring me a gift!”
A typical trip to the grocery store makes absolutely no lasting impression, but this trip stayed with me for days. There was something powerful about witnessing this small act of kindness, and I began to wonder if perhaps I had benefited from the gift just as much as the cashier had.
I thought all day about the ladies’ decision to bestow a gift on a local cashier, someone they apparently knew only in the context of this store. I’m sure they appreciated her smile, her sunny disposition, and her helpful attitude each time they checked out. I’m sure they anticipated, to some extent, her delight and surprise at an unexpected gift. And I’m sure they knew they would be a blessing to her that day.
Here’s what they probably didn’t anticipate – I was watching and was inspired and stirred by their example. How many times have I checked out at that store and not been as friendly as I could have been to the cashier? How many opportunities have I missed to make someone’s day a little brighter just by expressing my thanks? How many times have I been in too big of a hurry to really notice the people working there?
Just as I was watching the example of the women in line that day, my kids are watching my example every day. They see how I treat strangers, how I react to crazy drivers, and how I show appreciation to those around me. A random act of kindness at the grocery store, on the internet, or even in our own homes has the potential to influence more than just the recipient of the gesture. Kindness is contagious – let’s spread it!
By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another. – John 13:35