When I was maybe 5 years old and Mark was 3, we had a routine with our mom. She would pick me up from kindergarten and we would all go to the local Jewel get our groceries for the week. We would both sit in the cart as she cruised through the aisles. We would get packed in by all of the food, and I'm sure we each smashed many loaves of bread in our day.
One day, as Mom was checking out, Mark and I ran to the candy machines. I'm sure you know the kind that I'm talking about -- you put in a quarter and you get a small toy or a handful of candy. As our tiny fingers smudged the -- in our minds -- pristine showcase, we would spend our time "ooh-ing" and "ah-ing" over the little prizes.
This became as much of a routine as our weekly shopping trip with our mom. This day, however, proved much more extraordinary. As we stood with our noses pressed against the glass, a man paused on his way out of the store. We barely noticed him, until he gently placed two quarters -- one for each of us -- into the machines we were admiring.
As young as we were, Mark and I were baffled, overwhelmed, and ecstatic with his little act of kindness. We each smiled up at him, thrilled with his gift. I suppose he took our toothy grins as a thank you, because he gently smiled back, waved, and went on his way.
I'm sitting here 18 years later, and I still remember this happening. It's one of my first clear memories. I recall it most often when I think about the importance of kindness. We all struggle to maintain our sanity and compassion for others, myself included. So...here's to you all. I sincerely hope that everyone takes the time out of their busy day to smile at a stranger, open the door for someone, or even give a quarter to a child so they can get that prize they've been admiring for so long.