I GET up early each morning and usually pick up something for breakfast on my way to the office so I can eat at my desk while I’m reading the overnight news and get a jump on that day’s work on the Tribune before staff members start to arrive. I’m usually in a hurry and there’s not much wait time at the Dairy Queen window. In fact, I’m usually the only car in the drive-through, so it takes a very short time to order my breakfast, pay at the first window, pick up the order at the second window and be on my way.
ONE MORNING last week, as I was driving on the road to Dairy Queen, there was a pokey driver in front of me (deciding whether to drive over 10 mph or sleep at the wheel) and it was taking me a little longer to get to the entrance of the drive-through. Just before I pulled in, two cars turned into the parking lot in front of me and headed for the drive-through lane. “Oh no!” I thought. “This is going to take awhile!”
BY THE time I ordered my breakfast and pulled around to the drive-through windows, the two cars were parked in front of me, as the drivers waited for their orders. In fact, I couldn’t even get to the first window to pay because of the two cars in front of me. So, as I patiently waited for the drivers to get their orders, it seemed like it was taking a long time. (For me, anything over 2 minutes at a fast food drive through is an eternity!) When I know I always have so much to do at the office, any “wait time” is “down time” and “non-productive” — even if it is only a few extra minutes. I said, under my breath, “please hurry up I’ve got a newspaper to get out.”
FINALLY, the drivers of the two cars in front of me received their breakfast orders and started to drive out of the drive-through lane. I pulled up to the first window (the pay window) and, as the window opened, I handed the DQ employee the money for my breakfast order. Actually, although I extended my hand with the money towards her, she refused it, saying, “the driver of the car in front of you paid for your order.” What???? “DID THE driver know me?” I asked. She replied, “I don’t think so. The driver just wanted to pay it because the driver in front of him paid for his meal! Suddenly, I was not so impatient and was a little ashamed that I thought adding a few extra minutes to my trip to the office was going to make a big difference in my day. THERE were no vehicles behind me so I couldn’t respond in kind, but, before you read this, I’m going to buy some driver who is behind me in a fast food lane, his or her breakfast — and I’m sure I will have a great feeling in doing it. It really is “more blessed to give than receive”. What the unknown driver did for me in spending $3.19 for my breakfast made my day because it taught me that the small, unexpected kindnesses extended to others have major impact on the recipients’ day.
WE LIVE in a society that seems to place great value on significant gifts during the Christmas season, but the most valuable gifts cannot be measured with money or credit card balances. The most valuable gifts are those that make the recipient want to “pass it on” to others to brighten their day as his or her day was brightened. It’s a lesson we need to be reminded of this time of year and all year long. What I received that morning at the Dairy Queen window was more than a $3.19 breakfast. It was a reminder to me what the Christmas spirit of giving is all about. It’s about brightening the day of others — and that includes people you don’t even know.
Merry Christmas, everyone!