Kindness in a Cup

It was one of those unexpected encounters on an ordinary, uneventful morning.

I took my oldest granddaughter to a southern landmark restaurant for breakfast when I was in Atlanta visiting family and friends. It was a no-frills, down-home, country-cooking, everything-is-better-with-bacon-biscuits-and-butter kind of place. The blackened, aged grill was sizzling with eggs, bacon, ham, and sausage, and was in full view as we walked in the door. It was as if we’d walked right into the midst of all the kitchen action. We couldn’t wait to have what was cooking. The coffee pots were constantly being filled up and poured out. Everything was humming to the tune of being well organized by experienced people who knew the daily routine.

All the customers seemed to fit in together―from overalls to suits, country to city, young to old―as they sat up at the counter or in one of the booths that lined the windows. In the small restaurant, space was limited, but friendliness and southern hospitality overflowed from the waitresses to the cooks. (And, by the way, all the regular customers knew them by name.) “Come on in and have a seat,” someone said from behind the counter.

name tag

Within a matter of seconds, a server appeared at our booth with a brimming pot of coffee in hand. I quickly glanced at her name tag, then took a second look. “Amazing Crystal” stood out in big, bold print. The clip-on gold stars that designate years of service covered the name tag around her name. I loved her boldness and confidence in describing herself, and immediately liked this woman.

I looked at her and smiled as I repeated her name. “Amazing Crystal?”

“Yes, I try to be amazing every day,” she said proudly. Her big welcoming smile embraced us, but, behind the makeup and mascara, her eyes looked tired and her face reflected years of stress.

Crystal went on to say how she believes in treating her customers with kindness, takes time to listen and interact, and gives them her best service no matter how busy she becomes.

“People need positive, caring people in their life. There’s plenty of negative people who can pull you down,” she said. I sensed she had experienced her share of negative people and was determined not to be one of them.

My granddaughter and I savored each bite of our delicious hot breakfast as Crystal checked in on us and anticipated our every need―always with a kind word and a smile. I watched her go to each table interacting with those she knew and making new friends of strangers. People who came in without smiling, perhaps because of a heaviness of heart, would leave with a smile and a wave. “Do come back to see us,” she would say.

Like Crystal, I want to try to be amazing every day.

She was a gentle reminder to me of how little it takes and how simple it is to be amazing. It’s not always about doing big things and it’s certainly not complicated. It’s about being nice, being kind, taking time to listen, smile, and be positive―even when you don’t always feel like it. And, being amazing can be contagious. It’s a lot like spreading joy and being a light in someone’s darkness who just might desperately need to feel the love of Jesus through amazing you.

I will go back to that restaurant again when I’m in Atlanta, and I’m sure Crystal will greet me warmly and treat me like we are old friends. I can hardly wait.

Let every detail in your liveswords, actions, whateverbe done in the name of Jesus.… (Colossians 3:17, The Message)

Susan Miller

From My Heart,
Susan

Fragile, handle with care

heart in handsIt all started after a sleepless night worrying about all the major repairs – from roof leaks, to inside water damage – that needed to be addressed first thing the next morning. At times, worry does seem to creep in, doesn’t it?

Early the next morning, with coffee in hand, I settled in to my favorite chair to read my devotional, pray for the day ahead, and center my thoughts from worry to trust. My emotions were fragile, and I felt overwhelmed with all that would be involved in the process of repair work, and what I imagined it would cost.

As I prayed, the word “nice” kept surfacing in my mind. “Oh Lord, please let the people I have to talk to today about all of these issues be nice to me.” I just didn’t think I could handle an unkind or rude person in my state of mind. I felt sure I’d burst into tears. Looking back, it’s funny how I felt: if everyone was kind or nice to me, I could handle whatever the outcome.

Each person I spoke with was not only nice to me, but kind as well. They went above and beyond what was required. When I hung up the phone, all I could say was, “Thank you Lord!” I had asked for little, and received more than I could have imagined. People, simply going out of their way to be nice and kind, strengthened my fragile emotions and changed the course of my day. It took so little to make a big difference.

That was the same day a stranger “paid it forward” in the drive-through line at Starbucks and bought my coffee, and I received a lovely card in my mailbox from a friend who just wanted to say she was thinking of me. God is a God of details and surprises, and He encouraged me in the most unexpected ways…and it all began with people being nice and kind.

What if? What if you and I went above and beyond this Christmas and practiced random acts of kindness to people in the most unexpected ways? At a time when “hurry” is normal, what if we slowed down and took the time to send a personal note of gratitude. When lines are long, and patience is short, what if we let someone go ahead of us who has fewer items to buy. What if we paid it forward and treated a stranger to a cup of coffee, or a meal. What if we went out of our way to speak and act nicely, knowing it just might strengthen a fragile heart and change the course of someone’s day.

It takes so little to make a big difference…

Susan Miller signature