Coffee Shop Kindness

Several years ago, in Portland, Oregon, I was hanging out with my friend Rick Spurlock and some friends from high school. These guys were straight out of Portlandia, class-A stoners. They lived in an old Victorian style house with a pirate flag out front. The place was covered in filth. A couple of them had dreams of going to culinary school (the stoner dream that was trending at the time). Music blasted out of the basement 24/7. They watched a lot of anime and they were deep into witchcraft (I’m not joking).

I was going to college at the time at the University of Miami and had come home for the summer. On this day, the guys decided they wanted coffee, so we drove down to Starbucks and went through the drive-through. After we had ordered and got up to the window, the woman informed us that the car in front had paid for our order!

We were all shocked. I’d never heard of this happening before. What a brilliant thing to do! We all talked about it for the rest of the day. It was a tiny gesture, but it had made a huge impact.

Ironically, I hadn’t ordered anything as I, the non-drug-abusing straight-laced college student was the poorest of the bunch, but it still left an impression. I think about it to this day.

This is the purest type of kindness, I think. They didn’t know who we were. They couldn’t be repaid. We couldn’t even know who they were.

I think we all wondered who these people were. The image that immediately comes to mind is of a 1950s family, dignified and charming, well-dressed churchgoers.

I wondered if such an act could start to work in the mind of my stoner friends, compel them, in some small way, to become better people. Perhaps it would be part of a larger set of events that would eventually drive them to clean up their act.

Today, I read on Facebook, that the same thing happened to my brother-in -law’s parents in Eugene. These are two very good people, and it made their day.

I was starting to think it was just an Oregon thing, so I looked it up, and found out that this happened:

Throughout our lives, I think we go through bad times more often than we let on. Part of our lives might be going great, but then we may be dealing with some issue or another that’s pulling us down. I don’t think my brother-in-law’s parents are going through a bad time, but maybe they are and I don’t know!

This is why random acts of kindness are so important. They remind us of the good in the world. They are the good in the world (at least a part of it). I think we too often forget that there is good in the world at all. Many of us are more cynical than optimistic. We tend to think we’re great and everyone else is pure evil.

This is the problem I have with Hollywood. They tend to be very cynical about our world, and even our history. According to Hollywood, good people are just naive, and any era in history where people were better, kinder, more decent human beings, never really happened.

But there is good in the world. When a grandma sings to her grandchild, when a grandpa fixes a toy, when a bully is stopped from beating up a nerd by another kid, when someone gives a valentine not on valentines day, or when a boy scout does anything boy scout-y.

This is my challenge to you, pay for the next guy’s order the next time you go through a drive through, any drive through (just be sure to ask how much it is first!).

If we all started doing this regularly, how many great days would we be directly responsible for?! And you know what people do when they have a great day? They kiss their wife. They give their employees raises. They become polite to waiters. They apologize for being a jerk the day before. They are inspired to perform random acts of kindness themselves, and the cycle moves on.

Maybe, if we all bought each other coffee, it would be Christmas all year ‘round!


Now, you might be saying to yourself, “That’s all well and good, but what about the starving children in Africa?” I agree. If no one gave their money to established charities and just bought coffees for the people in the car behind them, some problems could arise. But I don’t think that’s going to happen. The Red Cross and World Vision are going to be just fine. You should also give to them, though. And also to my favourite charity, A21 (they battle human trafficking).

You should also help me with my career, here:–4/x/2514328

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