“This is for you, Paulo”

In my last post, I wrote about a book that my youth group is studying this summer called “I Like Giving.”  In keeping with the theme of generosity and creative (not random, because they’re intentional!) acts of kindness, yesterday some of my students and I spent the afternoon giving to others.

First, we paid for the person behind us in line at Subway.  Then we purchased a $5 Starbucks card for each of them to decide how they wanted to give it away.  Our next stop was Walgreens, to develop a happy selfie of all us to tape to a church member’s door (captioned: “We’re all excited because we think you’re awesome!”).

As we stood in Walgreens waiting for the picture to be printed, one of the girls decided that the young man working behind the photo counter needed a Starbucks card.  She felt a little awkward and wasn’t sure how to go about it, so I told her to glance at his nametag.  “His name is Paulo!” she stage-whispered to me, grinning.  So I told her to write his name on the card so that he knew we didn’t leave it by mistake.  She borrowed a pen and carefully wrote on the little brown envelope, “This is for you, Paulo!”  And then she added a smiley face.

“Do I just…hand it to him?” she asked.  Trying not to be obvious, I shushed her and responded quietly, “No, just wait until we’re walking out and leave it on the counter.”

Paulo handed us the printed selfie, and I paid for it, and as we turned to walk away, I nudged my youth group girl to let her know that it was time.  Paulo picked up the gift card as we were walking out, and he shouted to us, “I love Starbucks!!” We turned around, and his ear-to-ear grin was worth far more than $5.

I think all of my youth group kids thought so, too.

Once we got back to the church building, we talked about how it had felt to give, and then I asked them to remember a time when someone gave to them and write a note to that person.  One girl mentioned an elderly woman at church who sends birthday cards to everyone.  One of the guys talked about a time when someone took him out to dinner.  And some of them — well, I didn’t know what they wrote in their notes until later.

Because perhaps my favorite moment of the day — when all was said and done and students were dropped off and I was back in the office sorting papers — was when one of the other ministers stopped by my office door.

“It’s crazy what sticks in a person’s mind,” he said.  “Did you read the note Juan left me?”

I shook my head no.

“Well,” he continued, “he thanked me for taking him home when his mom was sick.  I don’t even remember that.  Must’ve been when she had surgery two years ago.”  He shook his head.  “Sometimes you wonder if what you do makes any difference…”

A small act of kindness goes a long way.  I think about the times people have given to me without knowing how much it meant or how it shaped my life, and I think it does make a difference.  More than we know.

And I think that what my student wrote on that Starbucks card is a concise reminder of the attitude with which we should give.  It’s not about us or any attention or praise that might result.  It’s a simple way to say that they are worth noticing, that they are worth our time and money and emotional investment.

“This is for you.”

It’s a way to let someone know that your gift is not a ‘random’ act of kindness, that it’s not an accident. That they’re not an accident.

“This is for you.”

Keep your eyes open today to see how you can make a difference for someone — how your life can be a gift that is intentionally, uniquely, just for them.

Published in: on July 26, 2014 at 10:34 am  Comments (2)  
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Paying it Forward with Doughnuts

A dreary morning two semesters ago found me standing in line at Starbucks contemplating the great misfortunes in my life. My dark eyes and slumped posture bore witness to the late night hours of studying, which didn’t seem to have paid off for my early-morning test.

I had come to Starbucks looking for some encouragement in a cup of sugar and caffeine, and perhaps a small pastry for breakfast on the side. But as I examined the menu, I sighed. Because those were the prehistoric days of Lipscomb where I could only spend $6 on a meal, I couldn’t get coffee and breakfast; it was one or the other.

As I stood there debating which to get, suddenly I saw before me an angel from heaven in the guise of a random guy with an invitingly open Krispy Kreme box. “Would you like a doughnut?” he asked.

I may or may not have glanced anxiously around to ensure that he was talking to me. When my eyes came back to his, he was still standing there smiling. I gaped at him. “Are you kidding?! Why?”

He responded, “Oh, I just felt like being nice and handing out doughnuts today.”

He was perfectly serious.

My eyes lit up like a small excited child’s as I reverently lifted the doughnut from its pool of icing and thanked him ecstatically.

Then I ordered a raspberry mocha to go with my doughnut, and life did not seem so terrible after all. Because no one in the world could have known how much I needed a doughnut at that moment, the satisfaction from its sugary goodness — and the generosity of a stranger — lasted long after it was gone.

Fast forward a year, to finals week. It was past 11 PM and I couldn’t bring myself to study anymore, so I called up my sister and her husband to see if they wanted to go get some Krispy Kreme. My bro-in-law said heck yes and dragged his poor wife out the door in her pajamas.

When we had eaten our fill and they had headed back home, there were 4 doughnuts left in the box. I thought about saving them for breakfast — but then, I had a better idea. In honor of the mysterious doughnut guy, I decided to pay it forward.

Bracing myself against the chilly December air, I headed across campus to one of the guys’ dorms and gave one to a guy as he was walking in. In the next moment, three other guys came running outside.

“Doughnuts? Somebody said doughnuts!” one of them shouted.

There were three left — one for each of them.

Two took their doughnuts and disappeared, but the last one gave me a suffocating hug and exclaimed, “I don’t even know you, but you’re my best friend!”

I smiled to myself.

Doughnut Guy in Starbucks that day had spent $7.14 to make 12 people happy. When you think about that Krispy Kreme goodwill in a ripple effect — well, that’s a small price to pay for world peace.

I dare you to do it.

Buy a dozen original glazed doughnuts and give them to people who need them. In your office, in your class, at the bus stop. Wherever you see a downtrodden face, give them the gift of Krispy Kreme — and you’ll find, in the process, you give them so much more.

Published in: on December 29, 2011 at 9:43 pm  Leave a Comment  
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