If you’ve been paying close attention to the blog, I haven’t had a lot of deep posts lately.
I’ve been in a rut, a writer’s block, a mental hang-up, an inability to think introspectively.
I don’t know exactly why this is, but I know what helped me out of it. And that is what I am going to share with you all today. And I hope you’ll tune back in the next coming weeks as I share more stories of the amazing people and experiences that helped me through this hiccup period.
Last night, I got dinner with one of my best friends from high school. He drove five hours in horrible DC traffic to visit me, and I wanted to take him to a super nice restaurant. He loves sushi and milkshakes. It’s a weird combination, but DC is a weird place and has restaurants that specialize in both of those! We decided on The Hamilton, an upscale restaurant with a great wine list, unique, famous sushi, and tons of milkshake flavors. In the basement on weekends, famous bands play live music.
When we got there, we immediately spent time trying to find the perfect wine. It was expensive, but definitely the best white wine I’ve had. The waitress was impressed by our choice, and started treating us like ~ true ~ adults (It’s funny because I don’t think I’ll ever be a true adult). We ordered cheese along with it, and by the time we were close to finishing it, a couple sat down at the table next to us.
They looked like a picture-perfect couple: beautiful, regular DC locals who knew the food scene.
They ordered a wine, didn’t like it, and asked for a different, more expensive one. I rolled my eyes on the inside, silently judging them for being so….. high maintenance, it seemed.
Throughout the dinner, Alex and I would crack up laughing, then cry, then go back to laughing. We covered the gamut of tough topics—the most pressing foreign aid issues, controversial current events, old high school friends, best spots in DC, how we’re doing emotionally, where we see ourselves in ten years, how we plan to balance a family along with trying to change the world, faith, what success really looks like, how money is stupid, etc etc etc. After all, it was a 3-hour dinner. Every so often, Alex would make eye contact with the woman sitting next to us, and I would make eye contact with the man. Their table was fairly close to ours, and we could have heard their conversation had we wanted to. However, a lot of the time they weren’t talking, and it almost seemed like they were listening to us. Alex mentioned later that he felt a bit self-conscious with how much he’d make eye contact with the woman, thinking that maybe she kept looking at us because we were talking too loudly. At one point, Alex made a joke about how he wondered what age people in the restaurant thought we were. I told him I had been thinking the same thing, and later we both admitted we had said that because we felt like the couple found us annoying and too “youthful.”
Our waitress offered us dessert, and after we ordered our milkshakes—and assured her we didn’t want alcohol in ours—the table next to us asked for their check, too. The waitress accidentally charged them for the wine they didn’t like in addition to the wine they actually drank, so they kindly asked her to fix it. When she came back, she handed them two bills. Alex and I assumed it was the incorrect bill in addition to their new bill. They quickly stood up and left the restaurant.
Our waitress came back by to make sure she had our dessert order correct, and I told her it would just be one check. I was paying, I assured Alex, because he had visited and it was a gesture I wanted to make for someone who means the world to me.
“Oh, that table next to you two, the couple that just left, they paid your bill already,” the waitress told us.
“What?” We both asked in disbelief.
“Yeah… When I was correcting their bill, he asked to pay for your two, also. He said it seemed like you guys had really great energy and were so nice—an adorable couple, or something like that.”
Again we looked at her, confused. “I promise. It’s already taken care of. It was $150,” she said, nodding her head.
I started tearing up, and looked Alex. He was shaking his head, not believing it. “I thought they saw us as the most annoying table in here,” he said, his words slow and still in shock.
“Me, too,” I said, looking around the restaurant.
“We rarely have people paying for other tables,” the waitress said. “But that goes to show that there are good people in this world.” She walked away, as if that was the end of it.
But Alex and I stayed there. We sat in our seats to process the experience. We must have talked for thirty more minutes, just replaying the whole night and trying to wrap our minds around the kindness we just received but did not deserve.
I could write a whole blog post about how people are never who you think they are. We thought that couple hated us, but in reality they appreciated at least something about us. We thought they were uptight, but they were generous and thoughtful.
For those of you who know me well, you know I love random acts of kindness. You know that every single Friday of last semester, I passed out Krispy Kreme donuts throughout the library. You know that I often insist on paying for people, that I love leaving flowers for people or dropping off a chocolate chip cookie to a friend having a hard day. I’ve even been talking to Duke administration about starting a Random Acts of Kindness Club, because I could use some help in my scheming 😉
I am so often on the giving end of random acts of kindness. And I get such a high from it. I love knowing that someone’s day will be that much better because of a simple act. Whenever I do these things, people go above and beyond to say thank you. I’ve never truly understood it. I’d always assure them how it was no big deal, how I love doing this, how so many people would do the same for me, how life is hard and we all just need a cookie sometimes. I get so confused by the thank you’s, that I often do my random acts of kindness anonymously now. Don’t people know I’m not doing it for the thank you?
But after last night, I understand why people can be so appreciative: it’s so unexpected, so thoughtful, and so unnecessary, that all you want to do is say thank you over and over and over again.
This is how I feel about grace: God gives us so much mercy and love that we don’t deserve, and as a result all we want to do is say thank you thank you thank you over and over and over again. To imagine that Jesus—by his very nature, in every action and in every word—is the human version of that act of kindness absolutely blows my mind. He lives a perfect life and through every breath forgives us, loves us, and guides us even though we never deserve it.
Six years ago, my family was eating at Bonefish Grill– a chain seafood and steak restaurant–and we overheard that the couple next to us was celebrating their 15th anniversary. They were adorable, and said they had saved up money to be able to go out to this restaurant. My parents immediately told our waitress that we would be paying for their bill, and we rushed out of the restaurant as soon as we paid. We sat in the car in the parking lot as the couple walked out. They were laughing, smiling, dancing, and on speaker-phone with their friends trying to figure out who had paid for them. My parents smiled and drove off.
That couple never knew we were the ones who paid for them, just like I will never know the name of the couple who paid for us.
But I do know that that single act last night empowered me more than anything else has this summer. I often come home late at night and feel like I haven’t made a difference. I feel defeated, that the problems of our world are only getting worse and I’m selfishly sitting back and doing nothing. I keep hearing about the horrible ways people are acting, and see so much complacency.
But then this couple paid for our dinner. I don’t know why they did it, but I like to think they did it because they liked what they heard. They liked hearing that Millennials are not all lazy, selfish human beings. Some of us do discuss current events and do listen fervently and deeply care about each other. Some of us are frustrated with the state of the world and hope we can change it. Some of us do love the simple beauty of just sharing a three-hour meal with each other, without phones or other silly distractions.
I like to think that couple paid for us because they overheard the part about how we are getting exhausted and overwhelmed. I opened up to Alex about how hard it is to dream big and to truly be a change-maker. And he told me, over and over and over again, that if anyone could do it I could. At that point, I wiped tears from my eyes and told him how thankful I was to have that kind of influence in my life. I like to think that that couple appreciated that the kinds of influence I have are people like Alex, not peer-pressured immature friends who want me to do stupid things with them. I like to think a lot of things, and I will continue to think them. Because that is the beauty of a random act of kindness. You never really know why someone did it, but immediately you are filled with so much joy and hope. You believe that anything can happen, that people can be good, and that change can be made.
Almost three years ago, I started this blog. I wanted to make change. I wanted to influence people. I wanted to show the world that there is good, that people do think, and that thinking good, bad, ugly, messy, beautiful (any combination thereof), is not only okay but is encouraged.
For the last month or so, I couldn’t remember why I was doing this blog. I couldn’t remember why anyone cared. I couldn’t remember why it was worth it to spend hours on marketing, branding, writing content, attending conferences, and putting myself out there. Who am I really affecting? So I chose the easy route for the summer. Because I didn’t believe in myself, I wouldn’t write about myself. Instead, I’d write about fitness. And that’s been great! And I’ll continue to do it! But it’s not deep and thought provoking, and it’s not therapeutic to you and especially not to me.
But then this couple paid for my dinner and I realized I can do this. I can continue. I matter. People matter. There is good. And grace is beautiful. And if I don’t tell these stories, if I don’t encourage people that they matter, who will?
Here’s to a lifetime of doing what I love—writing, random acts of kindness, seeing and praising the good in people, and believing that the world will get better with big dreams, strong change agents, and quality relationships.
Talk to you soon,