I don’t know why good news is so hard to accept. I will take bad news at face value, but kindness is a tricky bitch. People – especially strangers – are only nice to you when they want something, right? That’s why I wasn’t sure how to react when the barista at Starbucks on 39th Street handed me a free gift card last Friday morning.
“Uh,” I stammered. My ears were burning. “Are you sure?”
To honor the memory of the victims of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, a customer had purchased 26 five-dollar cards and left them with the barista to be distributed at random. For whatever reason – maybe because I had tipped – she decided to give one to me. It felt like I had passed a test I didn’t even know I was taking.
Printed on the card was the name of one of the victims: Victoria Soto, age 27. She was a teacher who lost her life protecting her students. When I realized what was happening, I nearly cried.
It is easy to get cynical about such a gesture. Will it do any good to give lattes to a bunch of spoiled Americans? It certainly won’t undo the harm that has been done, and it won’t bring the victims back. Wouldn’t it be better to cure cancer or feed the hungry — to focus our energy on things that actually matter? Why does it take a tragedy for people to be nice to each other, anyway?
But not every act of kindness has to be a grand, sweeping gesture. Being on the receiving end of a random act of kindness – even something as small as a latte I don’t particularly need – snapped me out of a mid-winter funk and made me more patient and aware of how I was treating those around me. I fully intend to pass on the good deed. It might not change the world, but it’s not nothing.