This morning I stopped by the local espresso stand for a mocha. When it was time to pay, the barista waved off my money. “Your coffee’s paid for.” She smiled. “My favorite customer came in this morning and gave me a big bill with instructions to pay for as many people’s coffee as possible.” She went on to tell me about the young couple that had been through earlier. They were in a rusty car that kept backfiring as they ordered. When the barista informed them that their coffees were free thanks to a stranger, well, they stared back and forth at one another in disbelief. Fantastic.
My community of Kirkland, Washington is like that. The first time I experienced a random act of kindness was shortly after my second daughter was born. She hated being in the car. Unfortunately, cars were necessary to take my older daughter to school and do countless other tasks. I needed baby Bryn adjust to the car for obvious reasons. Every day I tucked her into her car seat and we drove the streets of Kirkland. She cried. I cried. And after thirty minutes, we drove home to nap. Just weeks after our cry routine commenced, something life changing happened. They opened a Starbucks drive-thru.
I’m sure that first order I made over the speaker was nearly impossible to hear over the yowls of my baby. In truth, I didn’t care what the barista handed me, I was eager to drink some coffee-flavored feelings. Can you imagine how surprised I was when she told me that my drink had been paid for by the person before me? Stunned, I remember crying (jeez, the hormones back then). I wiped my nose and handed her my money to add to the tip jar.
A week or two later, I paid it forward. I treated the car behind me. Soon, it became a tradition. My goal was always to brighten someone’s day. My secondary goal was to drive away fast enough that the other car couldn’t catch up to me and wave or honk or something equally mortifying. I didn’t want to undo the good karma I was sending out there either. Isn’t there something to that effect in the Bible? Doing good with no regard for reward pleases God, or something like that with fancy thous and arts added in the mix.
We have a restaurant in Seattle that randomly pays for pizzas. I’m a regular customer and every now and again when I meet the driver at the door and he/she announces through a broad smile that my pizza is on the house. Wow.
Why am I surprised? Seattle is often named the most charitable city in the nation. We volunteer. We raise money for nonprofits. I’ve blogged about just a few of the pro athletes I admire for giving back to the community, Seattle Seahawks Richard Sherman and Russell Wilson. But, is there a downside to living among the kindest people around? I loved this blog post by a citizen in Sammamish, Washington on the subject. Only twenty minutes away from Seattle, he’s witnessed people making such a fuss over opening doors one another at the grocery store that, well, he said slugs cross thresholds faster. J Here’s a link to his blog.
Recently, locals are becoming concerned that our kind hearts are getting the better of us. Seattle is set to spend more money than any other city in the nation, a whopping $47 million in 2016. Here’s the blog about it. People are torn over this. Some say our spending isn’t helping the homeless problem, our numbers from the One Night Count prove our homeless population is growing. Many of the new influx of homeless have been interviewed and have stated that they were given bus tickets to Seattle from California. Is the nation taking advantage of Seattle’s kindness?
Then there’s the recent controversy over RVs. Families that have been forced out of their homes because of the economy are living in RVs across the city. But, criminals hoping to blend in with this RV surge are running meth labs and sex trade operations in RVs, too. The criminal activity has been largely ignored by city police, so neighbors that notice a new RV on the block basically freak out, expecting the worst. There have been neighborhood meetings, press conferences, webinars, blogs, and news stories about it. And I try to keep up with it all to see all sides of this complex issue. It will take us some time to sort through the facts, the needs, the fears and find a solution, but I know Seattle can do it. I have faith in us. We lead with our hearts, so what other community is better equipped to do the right thing? I think it’s Seattle.