A Random Act of Compassion

By: Lauren Smith

It’s funny how certain stories are etched into our memory. Maybe it’s a story of how you won first place or how your painting was put on display. Maybe you remember a time when someone important or a stranger showed you an act of random kindness. One story that comes to mind is how a stranger showed me compassion.

It was fall semester of my sophomore year and it was right after Thanksgiving break; which meant that the upcoming weeks were going to be filled with stress. Thank you, finals. I remember being so overwhelmed with trying to figure out how I was going to balance projects, papers and group presentations. Wednesdays were my longest days too. I had two classes that were 75 minutes long each, back to back and in the same classroom. When class was over, I would scurry over to my dorm, brew myself a cup of coffee for the remainder of the evening, empty out my school bag and start shoving my notebook and Bible into the bag. I’d grab my coffee and keys, lock my door and book it to my car and pray that I wouldn’t hit any traffic. Once I was at church, seeing my small group’s face, I was fine. I could breathe a bit more.

One Wednesday however, I was particularly stressed. I was stressed with school, friends, and honestly feeling burned out. I didn’t have time to make coffee so I decided to get some at Starbucks. I drove through and after I left the voice box, I started balling. I didn’t have a plan. I didn’t know how I’d get through the rest of the semester, let alone the evening that lied ahead. I felt embarrassed that I was crying, so I quickly wiped the tears away. When I got to the window, she handed me the drink I ordered and with a smile told me to have a great night. I started crying even more so. I didn’t anticipate a free drink, in fact I had already calculated how much of a tip to give. What leaves me speechless was how she didn’t know how impactful her actions were. She didn’t know about how crazy my day was or how my week was going. To her it was a simple action, giving a stranger a free coffee; but to me it was a reminder that everything was going to be okay.

Since then, I always try my best to look for opportunities like that. At the end of the day, I don’t know what everyone’s going through. I don’t know if the woman sitting next to me is coping with a miscarriage or if the man across from me is dealing with depression. And it isn’t our job or responsibility to know it all. But it is up to us to be kind human beings and do what we can for one another. And I know that I can tell them their beverage is on me. I can offer them a compliment and hope it encourages their day. I can try to be a compassionate stranger. Will I miss opportunities? Absolutely! I can only do so much, but I will always try.

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