five little words…and the handshake

So I was meeting up with a gal pal at Starbucks today and while I waited for her to arrive, a gentleman walked by me. He had what I thought was a cane with him, but I soon saw that it was to help with his visual impairment. He had a definite aroma and it was obvious that this gentleman had not had a shower in days. As he sat down, it felt safe to guess that this was not by choice.

My friend arrived and she and I got to chatting, and out of my peripheral, I could see that he had gotten up and ordered something. That something ended up being a cup of water. As I went along talking with my friend and discussing details of an upcoming event we would be working on together, he was over at the next table, just quietly sipping on his water. I knew my heart was a little distracted so rather than sit there and fight it, I excused myself and went to the counter. I asked the sweet employees if they knew who he was and if he had been in there before. They’d only seen him in the store the day prior, and again today. I was hoping that maybe he had ordered something there before and they would remember what it was. That wasn’t the case, so instead I just went over to his table. Not knowing the severity of his visual impairment and hoping not to startle him, I just bent down a bit and told him that I’d like to buy him something to eat and asked what he’d like.

He was obviously a bit surprised, said “OK….do you mind if I go look?”

So together we walked over to the display case where all the delicious scones, sandwiches, muffins, and cake pops are. I thought to myself, this will be nice. I can get him a nice warm sandwich or something, get some carbs and protein in him, and hopefully that will help a little for today.

After looking for a moment and checking everything out, he says these five words…

“May I have a croissant?”

Five little words…that was it.

Really? All these delicious looking foods and all you’re going to request is a croissant? I didn’t want him to think that all he could get was the cheapest thing on the menu, so I gently put my hand on his back and asked, “what else?”

“a coffee?” he said with hesitation, surprised and almost like it was a question of whether or not that was acceptable.

I told him to go ahead and have a seat and I’d bring it to him. You could still see he was a bit surprised by all of it. I was still just blown away by the fact that he had the entire menu to choose from and all he wanted was a croissant and coffee.

I asked the barista to please warm up two croissants. As I was waiting for the order to take back to him, a gentleman came up to me and asked me if I knew the man. As I was telling him that I didn’t, he was reaching into his wallet to pull out a $20 bill and asked me to please give it to the man. Such sweetness, and it made me happy to know that I wasn’t the only one in the room who noticed that he could use a little love and kindness.

I went to his table with his coffee and croissants, and told him that a gentleman who just left wanted him to have the money. I went back to my table to continue with my friend and we stayed for another good 30 minutes.

As we were getting ready to leave, I noticed that he stood up at his table. I figured he was leaving as well. His table was between me and the door.

He continued to stand, and simply waited for me to say my goodbyes. As I walked towards him (and the door) I stopped at his table. I put out my hand to shake his, and I said “I’m Katie, what’s your name?”

In that moment, a smile came over his face…a smile that I truly cannot describe with words. It was the sweetest, most genuine, tender smile I think I’ve ever seen. There was something so pure, so beautiful, and obviously so humanizing about that moment. And with that incredible smile, he said “I’m Gabriel.”

I continued to shake his hand for a moment and wished him a nice evening.

That moment…that simple moment and act that happens millions of times a day all over the world, took a part of my heart forever.

I don’t say that lightly. Tears are streaming as I’m typing this, because there was something so alive about that moment. There is something about an experience like that that really puts life, and everything in it into perspective really quick. And it reminds you of what life is all about. It’s not about the clothes, the cars, the houses, the electronics….it’s about the people. It’s about the people around you, the experiences that each of us has, the lessons we’ve learned along the way, the love, the pain, the tears, and the laughter and we can share it all.

Don’t make life about the “stuff” that is in it, but rather the memories and emotions that go along with the people you’re surrounded by.

Gabriel, one of my favorite quotes in life is by Maya Angelou “…people will forget what you did, people will forget what you said, but they will  never forget how you made them feel.” Thank you for sharing your spirit with me today. Such a brief moment, but it made a huge impact on this girl.

My heart will never forget how it felt to be in that moment today, Gabriel. You reminded me why I have such a passion for life and all the amazing people I have in it.

Do great things, friends. It doesn’t take a specialized degree, a ton of money, or a particular personality to go and do good out in the world. Take care of each other. Help someone who needs it, whether it be a mom struggling with a grocery cart, a senior who needs help grabbing something off a shelf, a little one who dropped everything she was trying to carry, or a man who is hungry. Everyone deserves to feel worth it. Put love out into the world, and it WILL come back to you!

Something about that brief moment really struck a cord with my heart today. Moments like that remind me of why we are all here.