What is the best way to show kindness and hospitality to strangers?
I don’t know about any “best” way. I think kindness should just be the norm and that whatever you are comfortable doing is the best thing to do. Showing kindness to people should never be a bad thing. I witnessed and experienced several instances of the kindness of strangers on Saturday. I was going to write about them for my weekly update post until I saw what today’s prompt was.
On my weekend post, I mentioned that I spent some time writing “in the wild” and took my laptop to Starbucks and then Panera. While I was chilling at Panera with some tomato soup and a Fuji apple salad, I was listening to some music and watching other patrons come and go.
It was early afternoon, about 1pm or so, and there was an open-air market just up the street, so there was a steady flow of customers. A woman and her young son came in with another woman and sat at the table opposite from my chair. (I guess technically everything was opposite my chair, as I was in a corner facing everyone else, but I digress.) They were getting settled into their table when this older gentleman got up from his and came over to greet them.
From the interaction, I gathered that the old man and his wife were regulars to this Panera and that they had often crossed paths with this woman and the little boy, who was maybe four or five years old, before. She greeted him and introduced him to her friend, explaining that whenever they see him, he always has a toy for her son. And sure enough, he had a couple small toys on him. A little plastic dinosaur and a tiny dump truck. The little boy’s eyes lit up and he busied himself with the toys while he waited for his food.
That alone was enough to put a smile on my face, but I got up to go to the bathroom about the same time as the older couple was getting ready to leave. I had spent the afternoon fighting the muse over one of next week’s prompts and had little to show for almost two hours of “writing.” The woman stopped me and asked if she could ask what I was working on.
I still get embarrassed whenever people ask me about my writing and I was mad at myself for not having written as much as I’d hoped. I kinda waved it off and told her “Oh, I’m just doing some writing.”
Her eyes lit up and she got a big smile on her face. “Oh, are you a writer?” she asked.
So many times I face this question and I say “no, not really,” because I have a hard time accepting “writer” as an identity. I tell myself I’m not a “real” writer because I’m “only” writing little blog posts every day for a handful of (300+) followers while struggling to progress through, let alone finish, any of my WIPs. And I’m always coming up with new ideas and abandoning old projects or returning to the same fanfiction I’ve been writing for myself since high school.
But on Saturday I stopped myself from deflecting. Would someone who isn’t a writer have written 185,000+ words over eight months? I’ve only had 14 days over that time span where I didn’t write a single word; a couple to migraines, a few to visiting family, a few date nights with my husband. That’s 237 days I spent at least an hour writing. Usually more.
So I returned her smile. Am I a writer? “Yup!” I said.
“How lovely! Are you published?”
“No, not yet. But someday!”
“You keep at it,” she told me. “Don’t give up!”
Her words put me on cloud nine. Not that I was really all that down, but any encouragement is uplifting. If a stranger having lunch with her husband in Panera can believe in me, then I can believe in me. I might not have had my best writing day, but I still put in the time and made a little progress. Every day spent writing is one day closer to my goal.
The epilogue to my Panera adventure is that when I went into the bathroom, these two little girls (sisters, I assumed) were just coming out of the stall to wash their hands. They were maybe seven or eight, and the older of the two smiled at me and told me she liked my necklace. I was wearing my Deathly Hallows necklace I’d bought at the fair last weekend. I asked her if she knew what it was from but she didn’t know. They were probably a bit young for Harry Potter yet, but when I told them that was where it was from they went “oh, yeah!”
I went into the stall and listened as they giggled while washing their hands together. From the sounds of it they were playing with the soap. I heard someone else come in—an employee come to refill the paper towel dispenser—and the older girl gasped and said “I love your nails!” I remembered my cashier had had really long nails, manicured with beautiful designs on them and wondered if it was the same woman, but mostly I was warmed by how this little girl so naturally complimented other people.
Be like the old woman in Panera. Encourage others, even if they are complete strangers. Be like her husband. Always seek to bring cheer to another person’s day. Be like the little girl in the bathroom. Find the beauty in everyone you meet, and tell them about it! Spread kindness. Do good.
How do you show kindness or hospitality to strangers? See you tomorrow!
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