For the Love of Something Sweet

Aug 10, 2016

Her name was Alexis. A sweet young thing, she couldn’t have been more than twenty-four years old. Old enough to be opening the store on a Sunday morning, but young enough I could easily be her mother. Let’s not go there.

Moments before, my friend, Cheri, and I had walked into Alexis’ donut shop in downtown San Jose. Because, hello. DONUTS.

{Save the hate because I don’t care. I heart donuts.}

So there we stood, Cheri and I, one of us drooling on the glass. We were the only customers perusing Alexis’ offerings while she busied herself folding boxes and fulfilling orders.

“Are you ready?” she asked when she looked up.

“Yes.” I smiled. Who doesn’t smile when looking at donuts? “We’ll take two buttermilk bars.” Please note I said “two” and not the “twenty-two” my heart was begging for.

She moved to get our order. And then I remembered:

“Please.” I cleared my throat. “I forgot to say ‘please.’ Sorry about that. We’d like two buttermilk bars, please.”

It was a silly little thing, really. Perhaps the Good Manners Fairy showed up because I was contemplating the sweet buttery confection about to enter my mouth. Alexis didn’t reply, and I doubted she’d heard me. She continued to do her thing, bagging our treats and moving to the register. I pulled out my card, signed the receipt and smiled a “Thanks!”

That’s when she spoke.

“Thank you for saying ‘please,'” she said, looking me in the eye. She’d heard me after all. “No one says that anymore. Ever. It means a lot.”

For the next couple minutes we exchanged handshakes and first names, and I did my best to look her in the eye, smile, and make her feel seen, valued. But I couldn’t help but wonder how many times I’ve stepped over kindness to get to my donut or next appointment. How many times I’ve neglected connection because I was too busy or preoccupied or wrapped up in myself to see the sweet face standing and working only eight feet away.

Our interaction involved little time and no more than a couple dozen words. But I haven’t stopped thinking about it for over a week.

I miss the simple kindnesses of strangers. I miss the expectation of manners, of doors being opened and groceries being carried and kind strangers shaking my hand, looking me in the eye, and remembering a first name. We’re all so suspicious, so careful. Maybe we have good reason for it. Then again, maybe it’s just easier. Maybe smiling and connecting and saying “please” have become too much of an effort.

It’s a shame, really. As it turns out, twenty-something girls named Alexis notice the absence. Which means (brace yourself), maybe the lack of kindness and manners isn’t a problem of the younger generation only, but ours too.

Here’s what I think: We spend a great deal of time waxing poetic about being “world-changers” and “influencers” and “making a difference.”  We want to live a grand story and leave behind a legacy that will outlast us. Noble desires, every one.

But perhaps the best way to change the world starts by simply changing someone’s day. By being a sweet taste of kindness that causes someone to look up, smile and exchange first names. 

In other words, maybe I need to spend less time planning grandiose strategies and more time practicing everyday ones, such as saying simple words like …

  • “Please.”
  • “Thank you.”
  • “Here, let me get that for you.”
  • “I appreciate you.”
  • “Can I help you with that?”
  • “What’s you’re name?”
  • “It’s so nice to meet you, _____________!”

I’ll stopping preaching now, though you should know I’m still preaching at myself. Perhaps these are little things, inconsequential things, no bigger than a donut in a glass case. Besides, I’m sure you could come up with a few solid reasons why this won’t work or nobody cares.

But I care. And my new friend Alexis cares. And perhaps we could all use a little something sweet to start—or finish—our day.

When is the last time a stranger’s kindness delighted you? When’s the last time you delighted someone else? 

29 Comments

  1. Linda Lochridge Hoenigsberg

    The other day I was in a market and as I was checking out, I made sure to look the checker in the eye and ask her how she was doing. She didn’t seem to see or hear me. I realized that not only are we not used to saying “please,” people are used to not hearing it. It is a shame, and it won’t stop me from trying again. Sometimes, after a particularly troubling news event, I have to tell myself (and whoever I am with), “Most people are kind, and will help you if you need it.” I just read a book written by a man who helped rescue a woman in a wheelchair from one of the twin towers right before it fell. He was lamenting how it sometimes takes a huge tragedy to bring this out in people. Too soon after 9/11, we all got back to business as usual…ignoring those around us. I know I am guilty. Your post reminded me of my natural bent and made me want to be a better person.

    Reply
    • Michele Cushatt

      Great point, Linda. We aren’t used to hearing it or acknowledging it. I want to be the kind of person who hears it and acknowledges the kindness in the other person when I see it.

      Reply
  2. Wayne Stiles

    Yes, I’ve “stepped over kindness to get to my donuts” too often. Kindness is a fruit of the Spirit (um, right?), so that means we’re like God when we’re kind. And love is kind. A gracious spirit is so appreciated. Thanks, Michele.

    Reply
    • Michele Cushatt

      Love your connection with the fruit of the Spirit! Of course! Thanks, Wayne.

      Reply
  3. Jess

    Thank you for your posts and encouragement. I just read your blog for the first time yesterday. You are an inspiration and what I have read so far has encouraged me to examine the way I am living my life. Thanks again and I look forward to reading more.

    Reply
    • Michele Cushatt

      It’s so nice to meet you, Jess. I’m glad you’re here! Looking forward to sharing more life together. <3

      Reply
  4. Jennie Nichols

    SO well said and such a good reminder. I just sent this to my husband to share with his employees as a reminder that kindness does matter! Thanks for sharing your gift of writing with us. XO

    Reply
    • Michele Cushatt

      Imagine how a corporate culture could radically change with a infusion of simple kindnesses?!

      Reply
  5. Ellen Cole

    Amen to that. I’ve been trying to be very mindful of how I treat those around me too. The other day I stopped to pick up the pizza I’d ordered (same caveat, different food group…”save the hate because I don’t care, I heart pizza”!). When I arrived, there were two customers ahead of me and only one employee to be seen anywhere in this typically busy pizza place. That employee was on the telephone, cheerfully taking a to-go order. She completed the call and apologized for the wait and served the next customer. The phone rang again, she was cheerful on the telephone and apologized to the next person. It was soon my turn and she apologized for the wait and I told her, “Absolutely no problem, you are doing an awesome job juggling a lot of things!” She beamed and thanked me. I beamed all the way home. I like life so much better when we’re being kind to each other!

    Reply
  6. Emily Nelson

    My issue is that I’m In A Hurry. I’m busy. I’ve got an agenda. No time for small talk. But when I stop to listen, a great kindness these days, I’m always amazed at the blessing I get, even though it’s not on my to-do list!

    Reply
    • Michele Cushatt

      Okay, now you’re stepping on my toes. Knock it off. 😉

      Reply
  7. Gretchen Yoder

    I have a full time job and two teenage kids…but I also work a part time job. It’s at that part time job I notice it most…I am simply a transaction – not a human. Thank you for writing this!

    Reply
    • Gretchen Yoder

      *except when Troy comes in to get his ski passes for the littles. 😉

      Reply
      • Michele Cushatt

        Hahaha. Good to know he’s on his best behavior! 😉

        Reply
  8. Michelle Smyth

    Thank you for this. I have been on the other side working in retail and like Alexis it made my day when a customer thanked me and used my name because it meant that they took the time to notice me. Not too many do that. They are either on their phones or just in a hurry. Customer service is such a lost art these days and it is a real shame and when you do get it you don’t know how to react. I am blessed because I work at a local Christian bookstore and we make the effort to give the best and create raving fans with our service. We all need to treat those we meet with the love of Jesus because we might be the only Jesus that some people may meet.

    Reply
  9. Melissa Milbourn

    One time this lady who was practically a stranger talked about the way I said the word panera. Hahaha. I’ve loved her ever since. 🙂
    Seriously though, great article!

    Reply
    • Michele Cushatt

      Love you BIG. In spite of your pronunciation. 😉

      Reply
  10. Vicki

    I have a friend who was visiting with a “stranger” as they washed their hands in a department store restroom. After leaving, her young teen daughter said ~ MOTHER! You don’t even know her! My friend replied, “I do now!” Maximizing the moment!

    Reply
  11. Brenda

    Love, love this post. I believe everything you say…even the donut love! (Man, I love donuts too!)…. I try always to say please and thank you and smile and try to make people’s day, hour or minute just a little bit nicer…it doesn’t take but a second to be nice… just as it doesn’t take but a second to be rude. But what a difference being nice makes! Appreciate you, Michelle!

    Reply
  12. Ben

    That’s so convincing and convicting. Vow to change my intercations with people. Yes people are real, even if you don’t know them.
    Thanks you so much.
    I heard your “reframing ” interview with Collins Swindoll. It was so good, esp the things that don’t help fellow sufferers. Agree with you, that it is the scars that buy us the right to be listened to.

    Reply
  13. Pearl Allard

    I heart donuts too! Scrumptious yeast circles with chocolate glaze…[drool] But seriously, one thing I appreciate (that I’m trying to get better at) is a friend that not only talks to me, but acknowledges my children, also. How someone treats my kids means a great deal to me; they’re treating me that way too! Helps me see that how I treat others is kinda, basically, how I treat God, our heavenly Father. Thank you so much for this, Michele!

    Reply
  14. Mardelle

    Love this example. I was having a not so great day. I ordered a subway for lunch and the YOUNG server handed me my sandwich and it had a little smiley face and well then so did I. Really made an impact.

    Reply
  15. Mardelle

    P.s first time on your website but I listen to your podcasts with Michael Hyatt everyday over and over and they help me every day be a better leader, family member, friend and wife. Thank you

    Reply
  16. Bethany

    Absolutely spot on, Michele! I’ll never forget my afternoon visit to the package store last Christmas. I was stocking up on vodka — for making vanilla extract (nothing else, promise! 🙂 I looked the lady at the counter in the eye and wished her a “Merry Christmas!” Tears welled in her eyes as she exclaimed, “No one has told me that all day long… Merry Christmas to you, too!” It felt like one of those Hallmark commercial moments!

    Reply

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