small act, big reaction

This morning I needed a little jolt to get me started so I stopped by Peet’s. Ahead of me in line was a man in his late 50s/early 60s. He had stooped shoulders under his outdoorsy jacket, was slightly balding, and gave an impression of trying not to take up too much space. As we moved closer to the registers, he was peering intently at the pastries, carefully considering his options. I looked into the case and noticed that there were two pieces of banana nut bread left, my morning snack of choice there. The man stepped up and, in a notably quiet voice, ordered one slice of it and tea. I was called to the other register and placed my order (thinking “that’s the last slice!”) and coffee. Our two cashiers disappeared for a moment, kneeling behind the low case to reach into the bottom shelf. I was handed my order and while waiting for my change I heard the man’s register girl apologize to him, saying “I dropped the last piece of banana nut bread. Would you like something else?” The man looked confused and started to look again into the case. I offered my slice back to his cashier saying, “He ordered it first. Take this and I can get something else.” My cashier heard me right away, but it took a few moments for the other folks to catch the man’s attention so he would turn around. By then another Peet’s staff person had joined in and a couple of people in line had also become involved. The guy at my register said my action was “a customer of the year thing to do!” and everyone seemed really surprised.

It was such a small act on my part, but I was struck by the reaction it caused. I confess that I enjoyed breaking up the rhythm of the order/pay/order/pay that is the mark of busy coffee shop efficiency. I also liked making a few people smile. I thought how different it would be if we would all do little kindnesses like this every day. I saw it as an opportunity that I couldn’t pass up.

I was joined at the milk bar by the man who asked me shyly, “What did you end up getting?” I told him, “A rasberry scone. They’re really good, too.” He smiled at me. I returned the smile and said, “Have a great rest of your day!” And I really meant it.


One response to “small act, big reaction

  1. Pingback: Small act, big reaction | Happiness Exercises

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