I recognized her sweet voice the very second it came over the intercom.
Even though I should have missed it entirely.
After all, I was simultaneously scrounging around for change, smoothing my bedhead and wondering if I had even brushed my teeth.
But her sweet lilt was so unmistakeable that my head automatically popped up from the scrounging with a, “Oh, sister, how are you?”
Which led to a quick interchange of…
“I am sooooo glad.”
“I think I’ll even make it through my whole shift today! I had to go home early the day you saw me.”
“I’m so grateful you did…I was worried about you!”
And then with a “See ya soon!” I resumed my scrounging.
That is until I pulled up to the window and she handed me a cup of sweet coffee heaven.
As I tried to give her my mini-van jackpot, she smiled and said, ‘It’s on me today!”
Now normally, I would have automatically offered to pay for the next one in line but instead, all I could do was say a heartfelt thank you and drive away.
It was not two minutes and a sip later that I felt hot tears rolling down my cheek. It could have been that I hadn’t slept the night before or that the bags under my eyes had screamed for that little cup from the moment everyone else had awoken.
But I think it was something else entirely.
It was a moment where I wondered what it said about this world if simply showing concern over a sweet lady at the drive-thru would warm her heart so deeply that she would show such beautiful kindness to me.
The truth is I can only look past the tough cookie act and recognize the effect of illness on a face because I see it in the mirror every day.
It’s why within seconds of looking at her a few days before, I had asked, “Are you okay?” And I was so proud of her for responding with a, “Not really. I had influenza and even though I’m not contagious any more, it just really wiped me out. But I need to work after missing ten days…”
So I listened and shook my head in agreement but parted with a, “Please go home if you need to?” And her tired eyes smiled back as she nodded a silent yes.
But kindness and compassion come more readily when you have already walked through someone else’s kind of pain.
For me it has always felt more humane than heroic.
But it also makes me wonder how many people I miss in my rummaging-for-whatever-I-think-I-need-but-really-don’t, too-entrenched-in-my-own-hard, always-twenty-steps-ahead-of-myself little life.
Because kindness is so much more than a simple act of humanity, it is an intentional act of relentless love.
The kind that steps out of my own pain and says, “How can I love you today?”
It doesn’t prioritize a schedule or a frustration or a goal over it’s expression.
It reaches down into the depth of who God asks us to be.
Someone who breathes life into the heart of another so that it can turn around and say,
“It’s on me today.”