There is so much anger.

I think this every morning as I commute to work.  It’s six months old, my commute, and one would think I would be used to it by now.  But every morning something startles me, something someone has done or how they’ve behaved that reflects the harshness of city living.  I’ve been in New York City for almost 20 years now, and up until now my travels to work have been a short subway ride and within walking distance from home.

Every morning I emerge from the subway feeling, depending on the day, shaken or angry or annoyed because someone chewed gum loudly in my ear or pushed ahead of me to get a seat or squeezed into the car at the moment just before the doors closed so they are taking up too much of my personal space.  As come out of the station and turn the corner, I dread the mob that waits in the next block.

Here, we wait for the light.  One my side of the street, the people who’ve just come of the subway from somewhere in Manhattan; on the other, the flock of folks who have crossed the river from New Jersey, anxious to begin their work day.  Sounds innocent enough, yes?  No.  As we wait for the light to change, it feels like something out of the movie Braveheart, one side tribe of people (the New Yorkers) waiting to beat the crap out of the other (the Jersey-ites).  And then the light changes and we fling ourselves into the street, ready to pulverize anyone who gets in our way and prevents us from getting to work on time.

It’s comical.

And then I get to work and commiserate with my co-workers on our respective ordeals of getting to the office.  It doesn’t make me feel better, I’ve noticed.  Instead, it fuels the emotion for every annoying thing I encounter throughout the day.

So much anger gets in the way.

And then someone does something with such kindness the anger must move aside.

My commute normally begins at my local coffee shop.  The stop is part of my morning ritual.  It’s become as much about my morning caffeine fix as much as it is about the certainty of something warm for my tummy and freeing for my head.  Though I need coffee—and I mean NEED coffee—I tend to make it at home on the weekends.

I’d had a long Saturday morning and early afternoon, and was craving a cup of comfort, so I stopped in.  The barista smiled as he saw me.

“I didn’t expect to see you today,” he said, sweetly.  He knows my order from memory, but wasn’t rattled when I altered it slightly.

We chatted as he made my almond milk latte, and I learned a few things about him.  It occurred to me that in the hubbub of a normal workday morning, you can know almost nothing about the people you see everyday.

I learned that his name is Alex.  I learned he loves what he does and knows what most of his regulars want before they order.  I learned he gets up at 4:30 every morning in order to get to work on time.

I also learned we should know each other’s stories.  Human interaction should be more than transactions.

As he handed me my coffee, I held out my money.

“Nope,” he waved his hand, “this one’s on me.”  I began to protest, but he silenced me.  “Besides, I know you’ll be back here on Monday.” And then he smiled.

It’s funny how such a small kindness could have altered the course of my day.  A smile can be as warm as sunshine after a winter of freezing temperatures.

Kindness matters.  It keeps us connected.

I hope your week is peppered with small—and big—gestures of kindness.  And coffee.  Lots and lots of coffee.

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xo, with goodness and grace.

 

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