Until yesterday I used to think it only happened in films.
Today I know different. Today I am transformed because of what took place yesterday. Today I am a believer. Best I explain.
Picture the restaurant scene in what I’ll call a ‘Hollywood date movie’. The pretty brunette seated at table seven is told by the gum-chewing, middle-aged waitress with the pencil behind her ear that the stately looking gentleman at the table in the far corner has just paid for her drinks and/or meal. She chances a look in that direction and there’s the handsome stranger staring back at her while giving his best ‘You’re Welcome’ nod of acknowledgement; a nod sitting precisely midway between debonair and two parts creepy on the BLI (body language index).
Admittedly what I found myself on the receiving end of yesterday was a sizeably scaled down version of this act of philanthropy, with not a hint of romance attached, but it was also by no means any less affecting.
There I was inching my way forward thru our local McDonald’s Drive-thru (pardon the doubling up on ‘thru’ just now but it was hard to avoid) to be suddenly greeted by the heart-fluttering news when reaching the pay window – I prefer the slightly more sci-fi leaning term ‘pay portal’ myself – that our order had been paid for by the car in front. I should make clear at this point that this was not a regular-latte and small fries sized order but one that came to nearly $30 to feed a car carrying five people.
Shock and awe does not begin to describe my reaction to this random act of kindness on the part of the driver in front. Twenty four hours later and I still have not wiped the smile from my face nor the warm inner glow from my whole being. Is that too grand and dilated a statement? I don’t think so, considering something like this has never happened to me before and on at least a number of levels it comes closest to what the average person might be able to reasonably call a ‘magical’ experience – short of spending a month wearing loose-fitting clothing clutching prayer beads whilst living in an Indian ashram.
The only downside of the experience was I didn’t get to thank the anonymous driver who was the perpetrator of this random act of generosity. While I was busy still picking my jaw up from the front seat and wondering if I’d just slipped into some alternate wholly-good universe, (and if so trying to work out how I could lengthen my stay) the car in front rounded the corner and was gone. All I remember it was a white Land Cruiser with a female driver and a young boy aged about ten sitting alongside in the front passenger seat. To the both of them now I say this: kindness is like a viral YouTube video. Every person who sees it is quite likely to feel like sharing it with others. Thanks for sharing your kindness with me.
I still can’t decide which was the more magical – the act itself or the timing of the act. The other part of this story is that along with my wife and six-year-old daughter, in the car with me on this day were my Korean mother in law and Korean brother-in-law. Both were on a first time visit to Australia. Neither speak English. They may not have understood the spoken words but very quickly each caught on to the fact that something good and something unusual had just taken place.
My wife and I joked that in an act of conspiratorial humor we could have squeezed even more ‘feel good juice’ from this kind-hearted displaypiece positioned amidst the fruitbowl of human benevolence and pretended, for the sake of our international guests, that this gesture of goodwill, rather than being something out of place and extraordinary, was to the contrary a quite common occurance here and merely ‘just how things are done’ in this country. If only!
In the spirit of pay it forward (acknowledgement to the 2000 movie and the 1999 Catherine Ryan Hyde novel the movie was based on) I did exactly that later that same day. That’s a story I’ll tell another time, maybe even using the heading
You know the one. The first rule of DELIGHT CLUB is you must talk about DELIGHT CLUB. The second rule..