The Guy in Front of Me in Line

This story was emailed to the Good Deeds By Good People Team. Certain details are changed to protect anonymity.

Most days, I get a bagel from a vendor near my office. According to the man working the mobile cart, he gets there before 5am every day, and has been doing so for over three decades. Rain or shine, freezing or sweltering, the man is there.

We only chat for a minute while he prepares my breakfast. In that short time he asks me about my interests — “Are you a Chargers fan?”— and about my well-being — “Did you have a good holiday?” He always ends with a “Have a good day, my friend. Thank you.”

Often, there is a man in front of me in line who consistently dresses casually. Were I to rely on a snap judgement, it looks like he makes enough to get by comfortably, but he is by no means flashy or lavish. He has similar conversations with the bagel vendor that I do.

This man puts me to shame most days. He nearly always leaves a tip for the vendor, even though the bagels are basically pre-prepared, and the vendor simply applies the schmear or places it ready-made in a bag. Sometimes, it’s spare change. Some days, he pays the correct amount. Often, the tip is double the cost of the bagel, or more. He never makes a show of it either, just handing over more than the amount owed, smiling and walking away, or replying in kind to the vendor’s “Have a good one, my friend.”

This is a small action. It doesn’t take much. But it always makes me smile, and it clearly means a lot to the vendor, who often puts his hand on his chest in silent thanks.

So this good deed is by both people; the vendor, who works hard, doesn’t ask for much, and always has a kind smile or a caring statement; and the man who recognizes this man’s inherent kindness and responds with his own bit of kindness. The men look differently from each other, but find a common bond in their own small way and show each other how human they can be.

It’s a beautiful thing.