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Tracking The Ripple Effect Of Kindness

It was a busy Saturday afternoon just before Christmas.  I was the third person in line at the cash register at Trader Joe’s in Shrewsbury, Massachusetts.  The first person in line was an elderly woman who was having a pleasant conversation with the cashier while helping to pack her 3 bags of groceries.  Behind her, and in front of me, was an athletic looking, middle-aged man.  Just before the elderly woman retrieved her wallet to pay, the man struck up a quiet conversation with the woman and the cashier.  When I saw the elderly woman’s eyes tear up as she gently patted the man’s back, I thought that I had witnessed an act of kindness and generosity. Once the man had left the store I asked the cashier to confirm what I thought I had seen: the man unexpectedly paying for the woman’s groceries.  She told me that was exactly what had happened.  We both expressed gratitude for having witnessed this kindness; and I reflected on this all day.

When I returned home my daughter Emily had just arrived from New York to celebrate the holidays.  I was full of excitement and emotion when I told her the Trader Joe’s story, and she was just as moved as I was. Emily is hard to keep up with because she travels around the globe for a literacy project at Columbia University.   She had just returned from Singapore so she was really raking up the frequent flyer miles that give her a shot at upgrading her seat to first class.  I know it sounds decadent to travel first class but when you live in the air and in hotels, it is a great time to catch up on lagging sleep.  When Emily left after Christmas, the Trader Joe’s incident stayed with her.  When she got to Logan Airport to head for the west coast she was not even close to the top of the list for an upgrade but was given a comfortable bulkhead seat at the front of coach.  Once she was settled in, a flight crew commotion that halted the boarding progress occurred when a woman in a wheelchair was being shuttled to row 25.  Emily offered the woman her seat to be able to have more room and took the woman’s seat in row 25.  After about 10 minutes had passed a flight attendant walked over to Emily in row 25 and offered her a first class seat.  

I believe the positive energy created by the man at Trader Joe’s had an amazing ripple effect for a lot of people.  Thank you to that athletic, middle-aged man in line at Trader Joe’s.

Story submitted by Susan DeLiddo
Photo credit: Scarlatti2004/Flickr