Coffee. One of the many things that helped me survive college, especially 8am classes. What also helped me start my morning was the simple act of kindness that even someone who hasn’t had their coffee yet can do…..holding the door open for you. The simple gesture can start someone’s day off better instead of worse. This particular morning, someone did hold the door open for me and I thanked them. I ordered my usual, skim latte with two pumps of sugar free vanilla, or as I like to call it the Kate Beckett (if you got that Castle reference you get an extra gold star). I sat down at one of the bar stools, since I had some time before I had to make it to class, and enjoyed my coffee.
I’m glad I stayed because what I witnessed next was something that brightened my day even more. A woman walked in and she seemed to be nervous. I turned my attention away from her and went back to my Russian notes. As she was in line, I could hear the tapping of her heels against the tile floor. When I heard someone speaking to her, I couldn’t help but listen in.
He was making small talk, something about how the weather was nicer than it should have been for February, and as they talked the tapping of her shoes stopped. I overheard that she was on her way to an interview and she was extremely nervous. She had been battling her anxiety since she woke up that morning, but she wasn’t going to let that stop her. When it was her turn to order, the man she had been talking to paid for her tea and wished her good luck.
I watched as she exited the Starbucks and saw that the nervous woman that entered had vanished. Instead there was someone there that was confident. That man, who was probably just getting himself a coffee before work, was there for this woman when she didn’t even know she needed him. The free drink was nice, but him distracting her from her nervous thoughts and telling her that she was going to do great was truly kind.
What if we all took his example? What if we asked someone who was pacing if they were okay? What if we saw an elderly woman drop something from her purse and picked it up for her? What if we helped someone carry their grocery bags to their car because their three year old was throwing a temper tantrum? If we all acted in these simple situations instead of just being an on looker, we could make a difference.
So if you ever see someone who seems to be a little nervous, be the guy at Starbucks and start a conversation. Anxiety is real and it’s not just “all in your head.” Don’t be offended if they turn you down (anxiety can be tricky to cope with). According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA), anxiety is the most common mental illness in the U.S., affecting 40 million adults (ages 18 and older), or 18% of the population. ADAA also states that out of those 40 million people, only a third will seek treatment.
You never know how much you might be able to help someone just by taking the time to really see them and offering a few well timed kind words.