So we ran out of coffee beans this morning. This is a bad thing. My children stayed conspicuously absent during our usually chaotic morning routine. They knew that a mommy void of caffeine was not to be trifled with.
We all marched into the car at the ridiculously early hour of 7am so we’d have time to stop at Starbucks, get to the eye doctor to pick up Levi’s new specks, and still get to school by 8. The drive-thru was packed so I decided to run inside for my fix. But alas, the number of customers in line so far outweighed the number of baristas, I made the call that waiting was not an option.
I got back in the car, sans java, my children were horrified. But then a ray of sunshine emerged. The drive thru lane was nearly empty. I revved the engine and high-tailed it into the line, nearly running over a crossing patron and a family of quail. But it was all an illusion. By the time I turned the corner and got sandwiched into the line, I saw that there were still four cars ahead of me. I calmly ordered my double tall non-fat cap and a bagel for Eli, who had once again forgotten to eat breakfast. I tried to breathe deeply and still my anxiousness. The boys remained silent in the back seat.
I nearly lost it when the woman in front of me seemed to be carrying on a deep and thoughtful conversation at the pick-up window. “Come on,” I thought. “Are you never going to drive away?”
Finally she did and it was my turn to secure my caffeinated drug of choice. I held out a $5 bill, knowing that my total was $4.18. The window lady just smiled at me. We were late and getting more behind as she vapidly flashed her pearly whites. Why wouldn’t she just take my money and free us from this eternal hell?
“The lady before you paid for your stuff,” she happily announced. I was dumbfounded. “She did?” I stammered. “Why that’s…unbelievable.” My kids started giggling gleefully. My fin waved freely in the soft windy breeze. “Well, take this and pay for the guy behind me,” I asserted rather joyfully in spite of my previous grumpiness.
Some random stranger had miraculously altered my entire morning by surprising me with coffee and a bagel. The Starbucks lady told me it happens all the time. My eldest son insisted that he hears stories about this very occurrence frequently. I guess I must be out of touch. I couldn’t actually remember the last time a stranger even smiled at me.
As we buoyantly pulled away, my son reminded me that in the Jewish religion, anonymous giving was way up there on the mitzvah scale. I wondered if the chain we’d started would go on indefinitely. Maybe the guy I popped for did the same for the gal behind him. Maybe the cycle of giving had been going on long before we ever arrived, and maybe it would continue forever.
I fantasized about that for a few seconds. But then reality came crashing back. No, someone somewhere was going to break the chain. But that’s okay. Because I’ll remember this day, and so will my kids. And we will most definitely be the ones who start the chain next time. It will be we who remind some poor soul in line behind us that today has the potential to be outstanding, if only we choose to make it that way.