I write the following encounter not as a look at me (please do not think that), not as a time when I coldly calculated what I was doing but as an example that shows a link between the reading about kindness and the doing. Research in many ways is showing what we all know in our hearts to be right and good.
“So when you consider performing an act of kindness, think about its potential three way positive effect. There’s the positive effect on the recipient, and the positive effect on you – you might find yourself experiencing the positive emotion of the ‘helper’s high.’ But perhaps the biggest effect of all will be on a passer-by who just happens to witness the act.”
(Steve Taylor PhD Senior Lecturer in Psychology at Leeds Metropolitan University)
It was a Monday evening, the food shop was done and I noticed petrol was cheap so I pulled in to fill the tank of the car.
As I entered the shop I noticed at the counter a distraught lady waving her phone around, asking questions to the cashier which he calmly and solemnly answered. “No,” he couldn’t do anything, he was trying to explain, “the bank for some reason has cancelled your card.” The conversation was going around and around as the line to pay for petrol grew.
“Sorry, please just step aside while I serve these customers.” was the request. The lady turned her back embarrassed, no one saw her face. She made another phone call, presumably to home, confused, upset, seeking answers.
I paid for my petrol. My heart was beating strongly. It takes effort for me to be brave and bold, but racing in my mind was something I had read recently where there was a kindness movement where people would randomly buy their own coffee and then pay the money for the coffee of the person behind. Surely I should pay for this ladies petrol?
In my response to the moment I realised I rudely interrupted the cashier as he served the next lady. “How much is the ladies bill, I want to pay it for her.” I hastily stammered out.
“It is $36, but she has $26.” Then something amazing happened! The lady who was being served placed a $10 note on the counter and said “I’ll pay it!” Next she fished around to find the money to pay for the water bottles she was purchasing. I fished around at the same time. “Please let us go halves” I said placing money on the counter.
The cashier looked confused and the upset lady was continuing her conversation with her back to all this. People in the line watched.
The bill was paid, the lady left with her water bottles and the cashier looked at me and so kindly said “Can I give you a free coffee?”
“No thankyou.” was my hasty reply. The adrenalin was pumping and I was wanting to get out the shop without the distraught lady seeing me. The thought of doing it all anonymously was special. The thought of the surprise this lady will get when she finds out her bill was paid was something to be treasured. There was this crazy natural high happening.
As I walked out into the evening the water bottle lady was driving out. Our eyes locked for a moment and we shared such a knowing smile and wave!