6 Unburned Pieces of The Mind
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20050416

A Simple Act of Kindness

Last Tuesday morning we had what I hope is the last snowfall of the season. Like the first snowfall of the season, the last snowfall makes me feel a sense of wonderment and anticipation. It has been a particularly long winter this year, and knowing that warm weather is right around the corner made this snowfall of wet, fat flakes that barely stuck to the ground easy to accept.

I quickly got dressed, and then found myself amused by my cat’s reaction when he jumped up on the desk and looked out the window. Watching the falling snow, the back of his head looked like a bobble toy. After getting dressed, I put on my coat and walked downtown Belfast to Chase’s Daily for breakfast.

The place was packed, and there was quite a long line of people waiting to get a table. Seeing a couple of spots available at the counter, I decided to take the stool on the end. No sooner than I sat down at the counter, a young woman approached and asked if I’d mind if she sat next to me. I didn’t object and went about reading the newspaper I had just picked up. The server then came up to us and asked her what she wanted to drink. “Coffee, please,” she replied.

The server then asked if I would be having coffee, too. “Yes,” I replied. It was then that I noticed the server seemed to be writing both our orders on one check. She didn’t ask the young woman or me if we were together, or if we wanted separate checks. Because we basically sat down at the counter at the same time, the server seemed to have assumed we were together. The young woman sitting next to me didn’t seem to notice what just had evolved. I didn’t say anything. I was curious as to how this was going to play out.

After the server took our order, the young woman next to me asked if I might be the radio announcer on WERU. She said my voice sounded exactly like his. “I’m Andrea,” she said as she extended her hand. After telling her I wasn't familiar with that paricular station, I introduced myself, and then engaged in a little chitchat about the weather, what it’s like to live in Belfast, and her campout on Bald Rock last night. After we finished eating, she got up from the counter and ambled off to look at the artwork that was being featured in the restaurant. The server then came over and placed the check in front of me. “You can pay for that when you’re ready,” she said. I picked up the tab, and sure enough, our server had, indeed, assumed we were together.

At first I thought I’d just mention the mistake to the server, and have her make out separate checks. But then I said to myself, why not just extend a simple act of kindness by paying for her breakfast. And so that’s what I did.

Just as I was walking up to pay the cashier, Andrea was walking back to the counter. I turned to her and said, “The server assumed we were together and wrote out one check for our breakfast. I’ve decided to take care of it.”

“What, pay for my breakfast? she asked. “Oh, no. I can’t let you do that.”

I smiled at her and said, “It’s been awhile since I’ve extended a complete stranger a simple act of kindness. It would be my pleasure to take care of this,” I said.

She seemed flabbergasted. “Well, thank you very much,” she said as she extended her hand for the second time. “That’s very nice of you.”

“You’re welcome,” I said. After paying the check, I put my coat on and left.

Every now and then when an opportunity presents itself to do something on the spur of the moment, especially when it has to do with acts of kindness toward others, it feels good to simply give without being asked. As I was walking back home through the wet snow, I realized that too often in life we sometimes forget that people aren’t all that different, that we are no different from the person sitting next to us. I think my outlook on how I perceive events, situations and people is beginning to change, though in ways I’m not sure I quite understand.