They were in line at the coffee shop just ahead of me. She, a petite, young blond with doe-blue eyes; he, an older, slight man, perhaps a Greek or Italian immigrant, with broken English, twinkling eyes and a smile the width of his face. While ordering him breakfast and coffee, she remarked, ‘Louie calls me his daughter,’ telling the woman behind her, the one just in front of me, about wanting to find a way to help Louie see, that his eyesight was particularly poor.
The woman just ahead of me, obviously resourceful and as touched as I, offered a community resource for free eye exams which the petite blond excitedly put into her iphone, exclaiming that she’d call later that morning after picking up her young son from school.
While awaiting the coffee and breakfast sandwiches, the petite blond pulled out money to pay for their meal. Yet the resourceful woman beat her to it, stepping in to pay for their breakfasts with a $20 bill, saying ‘thank you’ to them both as she took her coffee and moved quickly toward the door. “She just bought us breakfast, Louie, how lovely! Thank you.” Louie smiled his warm smile, accepting the directive to move toward the counter to pick up their coffee.
Social scientists tell us that in addition to the person receiving a kindness, the one expressing kindness benefits in the same ways. These benefits include not only the subjective experience of feeling good due to spiking levels of serotonin, that feel-good hormone that contributes to regulating mood, but also to alleviating stress, increasing one’s sense of self-worth, boosting feelings of optimism and joyfulness, reducing chronic pain, not to mention strengthening one’s immune system.
And, the biggest surprise by far has to do with the fact that the benefits extend to anyone simply witnessing the act of kindness.
This was surely true in my case. Tears filled my eyes as I witnessed these random yet mindful acts of kindness. As I added cream to my coffee, I felt my heart opening in my chest. I felt lighter and more connected to my fellow coffee drinkers. I felt inspired and grateful. And, while unclear whether others had even noticed this small yet amazing act of love, I began to look actively for ways to extend kindness myself in the days ahead. Thank you, Louie and company—you made my day.