One of the little perks I give myself on a cold winter day on the way to school is a trip through the McDonald’s drive-through. I like their breakfast sandwiches. I realize it may not be the healthiest choice on earth, and that many people have philosophical issues with the place. But I enjoy an egg McMuffin, a sausage biscuit with egg or sausage and egg burritos now and then — I just DO.
I found a McDonald’s that is not far out of my way that has lightning quick, reliable service in the drive-through so I’m tempted to stop every once in a while.
Today was one of those days.
I didn’t sleep well.
Our coffee maker is on the blink.
I was hungry but didn’t want to cook anything at home.
I drive up.
Place my order.
Dig around in my bag for some money.
Drive up toward the window to pay.
I find myself facing the tailgate back of a big red truck.
On the left side of the tailgate is a very large bumper sticker:
It says — I’m Pro-Choice on Guns.
Under that there is an image of a machine gun.
Instantly I am perturbed. Irritated. Upset. Angry.
I work in an elementary school.
Guns and schools — well, we all know the horrific things that have happened.
I had to fight the urge to flip the guy off.
My friends know that I am not a frequent flipper.
I’m being honest here.
Not my usual response to these things.
But this bumper sticker really hit me wrong.
I did manage to restrain my flipping urge.
I looked further down to see what other tidbits of wisdom this guy had on his bumpers.
The next one I see is a large black-bordered white oval that simple says IRAQ in black letters in the center.
In smaller letters curving around the bottom of the circle were the words:
He served in Iraq.
I’m instantly ashamed of myself.
I send a silent apology and a fervent “thank you for your service” thought toward the red truck with all the mental force I could muster.
I give myself quite a “talking to.”
No wonder the guy wants a machine gun handy. After living and working in Iraq I might want one, too.
I don’t begrudge him his gun sticker any longer.
The next thing that happened brought me to tears.
I drive up to the “pay here” window. The young woman says — HE PAID FOR YOU.
I am flabbergasted. Speechless.
Most people would react by paying for the person behind them, and I wish I had done that!
But I was all caught up in my inner drama.
I drive up to the next window to get my order. The server has a huge smile and obviously knows what the guy had done for me, too. I say “Thank you” with tears in my eyes and try to mumble something about what a nice surprise and that this has never happened to me before. I don’t know what I said, really.
I looked around for the red pickup. I wanted to say “thank you.”
I saw him heading toward the stoplight in the left turn lane.
Normally, I would need to turn left to get to school but I quickly drove up beside him in the other lane. I rolled down my window and yelled “thank you” and gestured from my heart over to him. He nodded and waved as if to say “no big deal” and then he drove off.
As I drove to school I mulled over all the thoughts and emotions as I munched my burrito and sipped my sugar-free latte.
As a Christian the ramifications of “HE PAID FOR YOU” is glaringly obvious but equating my free breakfast with eternal salvation seems trite and ridiculous.
Why did this kind gesture surprise me make the tears well?
I surmised that it is because I was so mean and judgmental about the first bumper sticker. Then already felling chastised by the second sticker, all my assumptions were blown away by the incredibly kind, thoughtful and simple gesture of his “paying it backward.”
This young man who risked his life in Iraq while I lived my comfortable Midwestern American life bought ME breakfast.
The point that stuck with me is that caring (or hurting, for that matter) for each other doesn’t always need to involve grand gestures.
Simple words and actions matter.
Do good things.
Mean thoughts can lead to mean actions.
Don’t go down that path.
Be kind. Be generous. Be spontaneous. Be thoughtful.
Let’s do it.
Pay for the person behind you in line. Soon.
I’ll tell you my story. Please share yours, too.
Oh. And the next time you see vet?
Gather your courage, and please take a moment to thank them for their service.