The Kindness Of A Stranger

“A single act of kindness throws out roots in all directions, and the roots spring up and make new trees.”  – Amelia Earhart

Last night was my first night alone with Zak, as Laura was in Belfast at a hen party. Luckily my parents were still around, so it wasn’t quite “flying solo.” But anyway, that’s another story.

So that Laura could get ready in peace, I took Zak to The Copper Lab Coffee in Banbridge.

Picture the scene: a slightly sweaty dad (it was hot outside!) manoeuvres his seven-week-old baby in his pushchair into a coffee shop. He moves a table so that he can get the pushchair in, then realises that he can’t see the baby from the seat at the table. Apologising to the couple sitting beside him, he moves the table again to get the pushchair out, then moves it one more time to get the baby parked at the other side of the table. People are staring. The woman at the next table looks on with a knowing smile that says she too has experienced this herself once.

So this dad is me. I’m awkward most of the time, but it seems that I’m especially awkward when trying to park Zak’s wheels in a confined space.

I’ll continue the story in the first person…

Now that Zak is settled, I look at the menu and decide on a V60 coffee. The Copper Lab Coffee uses beans roasted by Bailies Coffee in Belfast, keeping it all very local.

Disaster strikes. The card machine isn’t working properly and I can’t pay using my card. I look in my wallet for cash, but I don’t know why, as I never go anywhere near a cash machine. Never carrying cash is about the only thing I have in common with The Queen. I didn’t know it at the time, but the whole Visa network across Europe had gone down.

I am faced with a dilemma. Do I admit defeat and leave? Or do I somehow manoeuvre Zak out of the coffee shop, find a cash machine and then repeat our chaotic entrance?

Thankfully I didn’t decide on either of these.

Putting on my most ‘frazzled parent’ look, I ask if I can pay after I’ve had my coffee, rather than getting Zak out and back in again. “Of course!” comes the cheery reply. So I take a seat and browse Instagram because Zak is ignoring me and pretending that I’m not there. Probably because he was so embarrassed by the fiasco I created when we walked in.

My coffee arrives and I tentatively sip on it, savouring every moment. Zak is still ignoring me so I indulge in another one of my favourite hobbies – people-watching. I glance around the coffee shop. One man is paying while talking very quietly at the till. A couple is next to me chatting quietly, meaning that I can’t listen in. And the staff are working diligently, cleaning and tidying as their working day is almost over. 

It’s 4:30pm and Zak suddenly becomes my friend again when he remembers that he wants some milk. So I get out his bottle and begin to feed him. It’s at this point that the lady working in the coffee shop comes over to me and says, “Did you see that man at the till a minute ago? He has paid for your coffee. He said that he has children of his own and knows how hard it can be when you’re out and about with them. He said not to tell you until he’d gone.”

I couldn’t believe it. A stranger had paid for my coffee. I had no idea who he was and he had no idea who I was. But this very simple act of kindness meant so much to me. 

I’ll probably never know who this man was and I think that it’s unlikely that he’ll read my little blog. So to say thank you to him, I’m setting a challenge: do something kind for a stranger today. It doesn’t have to be big or extravagant. It might be as simple as smiling at someone. Make someone’s day today, just like a stranger did for me. And maybe with lots of small acts of kindness, the world will be an even better place.

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