A Gesture of Kindness

James - Loveland, Colorado
Entered on December 28, 2007
Age Group: 30 - 50

It was Monday evening and our little family was casting votes on whether we should have a meal at home or go to a local restaurant. Given that the day had been long, mom was tired and the restaurant was close by, we loaded up in the truck and headed out for dinner.

It was not long after we sat down to enjoy our meal together that two young men entered the restaurant. They appeared to be about 18 years old. As they came into the dining area, I noticed that one young man was wearing a t-shirt with an image on it. At first, I could not make out what the image was and then it became clear. On the front of his shirt were two hands, large and obvious. One hand had a middle finger sticking up while the other hand had its index finger pointing outward to the world. At first, embarrassed to look at the crude gesture on the young man’s shirt, I thought, “Does he know what he is wearing?” Maybe he grabbed the wrong shirt as he hastily left his house. Realistically, I knew this was not true. Then just as quickly, I became aware of my children. How would they feel if they saw the rude gesture on the young man’s shirt and what would I say?

As the hostess directed the young men to a table for dinner, the situation became more uncomfortable. Hoping that they would be seated in a far corner of the restaurant, it was now apparent they would be sitting close to my family and in my direct line of sight. Slowly, I sensed my feelings of embarrassment and discomfort smoldering in to anger. “Who was this person to make such a vulgar gesture to my family? What had we done to him? What gave him the right to make the world an ugly, cynical and mean place?” As these thoughts began to churn inside me, I knew I would be confronting the young man.

Inspiration is an unpredictable thing. Anyone who has lived by it knows it cannot be ignored. It may come at the strangest times or in the most inopportune moments, but it is pure and true, and speaks directly to the soul.

As the end of our meal approached and I began to steel myself for the encounter that lay ahead, it was then that inspiration came. Simple and direct, I could not believe what was being suggested, yet I knew it was absolutely the correct reaction to this situation. As our server handed me our final bill, I asked her if she could refigure our tab. I then pointed to the young men and said, “Would you please tell them that their meal is paid for this evening”. Confused, our server clarified my requested. Understanding what I had asked, she proceeded over to the young men. Though I could not hear the server’s words, as the young men looked our direction, I knew what she had told them. Then, the most phenomenal thing happened. All the aggression, all the malice, all the retaliation I had felt the moment before was washed from my body and I experienced a sensation of cleanliness I have not felt in a long time. Suddenly, I began to feel love for these two young men and even though I had never met them before and would probably never meet them again, I felt connected to them.

As our family finished dinner, gathered our things, and began to exit the restaurant, we passed near to the table where the young men were sitting. As we walked past, the young man wearing the shirt with the gesturing hands looked at me and with sincerity said, “Thank you that was very kind”. Immediately my mind recalled a biblical lesson, “Love your enemy, be good to those that hate you”. By following inspiration, my heart had been changed, my body cleansed and I understood beyond intellect that light does rule over darkness, that good is stronger than evil and that a simple act of kindness can supersede all the ill will and meanness that humankind can project at one another. I also understood that we have been given us the power to make the world a better place to live, one kind gesture at a time.