I just had to share this really weird day I had. Earlier this week, I had jury duty, and on the first day I went to Panera for lunch. As I was approaching the door, so was a family consisting of a young woman in a wheelchair, and older woman pushing the chair, and a little girl maybe 2 years old. So I held the door for them. I mean, seriously, who wouldn’t? They were excessively thankful, which made me uncomfortable because I’m socially awkward and can’t take thanks or a compliment properly to save my life. Anyway, once we were in line, the older woman was holding the little girl, who pointed at me and said, “There’s the nice lady.” So then we had to have a little exchange where we said hi and then she thanked me again and I said it was no problem.
When the next register opened, they weren’t ready, so they told me to go ahead. I figured we were even, all squared away. Then I tried to find a place to sit and literally the only open spots were at one of those big tables with 10 chairs, and the two at the end were occupied. So I sat at the other end.
Soon, the appreciative family came along (and they had picked up Grandpa by this time) and were also finding nowhere to sit. They pondered sitting at my table. I was thinking it would be awkward because they’d have to all sit on one side, and I’d be sitting amongst them. Then, the guy at the two-seater right behind me left, so I snagged his table. I hadn’t even gotten my food yet.
Then Grandpa came over and asked in wonderment if I’d moved for his daughter. I’m not even sure what I said, because I was again embarrassed. I mean, it so wasn’t a big deal. Besides, I’d rather sit at a small table alone than a big table with people I don’t know.
Then this older woman sat at my table. She didn’t even ask if it was okay—she just looked at me, said, “I won’t bite,” and sat down. I go out to eat all the time, and I have never had a stranger sit with me at a table, much less a tiny one with two chairs. But you know, there really wasn’t anywhere else. So that was fine. Then we got to talking as I noticed that she had on a juror badge. I was in the middle of being considered for a two week trial, which I thought was bad enough, but it turned out she was on an actual case that was stretching out over six weeks, which would totally suck. She was pretty interesting so we were chatting about old people driving and chemistry. And how you have to be true to yourself. You know, normal stuff. And I have to say, if a 78-year-old woman with five kids, nine grandkids, and fifteen great grandkids thinks it’s okay for women not to need men, give that some thought.
Then I noticed movement out of the corner of my eye and saw the little girl standing there with her mom, holding something out. I realized slowly that it was a gift card, and they had the girl thank me again. I really didn’t know what to do, but I took it and said thanks. We all went on with lunch and eventually they left.
But seriously, they gave me a gift card for being nice. I mean, what a crappy world we live in where doing something that helps somebody else and doesn’t inconvenience you in any way is worthy of major thanks.*
So, see if you can do something nice for somebody.**
* It also occurs to me that they probably all had the opposite reaction to the experience. “See, the world is great—there are still wonderful, thoughtful people out there, helping each other out!” Of course, I am usually a pragmatic, glass-is-half-empty kind of person (in my defense, this may be because I figure I must have been the one to drink the other half, since I do love my liquid calories, and now there’s less left to drink).
** Also, maybe you’ll get a gift card out of it.