But I do think that we can affect our environment by our attitude and that ripples of behavior are both very real and hard to quantify.
In that vein, allow me to share a little story from yesterday.
As some of you know, I am in the process of hopefully becoming a platelet donor. Once that process is over, I will write about the how and the why etc, but for now, it is enough to know that I am a regular visitor at my local blood center.
Yesterday there was a bit of confusion as to which blood center I was supposed to go to... and I ended up at the wrong place. I was assured they could get to me in a bit, but the wait was going to be 45 minutes so I opted to spend that wait at a Denny's sipping coffee and eating an English muffin while reading.
Across the restaurant from me were two ladies having breakfast. One of these ladies was telling her companion, and the rest of the restaurant, all about how crappy her life had been, still was, and would forever be.Apparently, society, her ex-husband, her family,... everyone had conspired together to make her life the pits.
At first, I was annoyed. Her anger was distracting and filled the room.
But then I started to hear something in her anger: sadness. At one point she said, "I have no control over any of this, and when I try to take control something bad always happens."
Now, I have no idea if she really had been dealt a crappy hand at life or if she was a perpetual victim. What I did know, as I sat there sipping my coffee with no worry about being able to afford it, in a brand new coat a dear friend had gifted me, on my way to donate blood which I can do because I am lucky enough to be both unafraid of needles and pretty darn healthy due in part to my excellent health insurance, was that she could probably use a win.
So I told the waiter to put their tab on my check. I figured either Angry Lady was planning on paying and she might benefit from a random act of kindness... or, more likely, her long-suffering companion was going to pay, and boy did she deserve to have her burden slightly alleviated.
(side note: the waiter, as he rang me up said, "What a Christian thing to do." To which I replied, "Not a Christian, just a decent person." )
I will never know what effect, if any, my tiny gesture had on either of them.
Interesting to note that at the same time I was paying their bill and trying to get out of the restaurant before getting noticed, my husband was a few blocks over realizing that he didn't have cash at a cash-only doughnut shop where he had stopped for breakfast.
Guess what? A friendly stranger paid for his doughnuts and coffee!
Now, I am not saying that one thing happened because of the other.
I am not saying that good things happen only to good people.
But I am saying that it feels good to be on both ends of the "pay it forward" game. Also, our five year old listened to both stores at the dinner table last night. She was disappointed that none of the doughnuts had made it home, but I think the lesson of kindness both given and received was appreciated as well.
As we head into Thanksgiving, let us give thanks to those who make our lives a little better... and also let us give thanks that we can sometimes be the positive ripple in someone else's life.