I just wanted a cup of coffee. A strong, beautiful dose of caffeine to get my hectic night-blurred-into-morning continued. Except my eyes were drawn to the minutes slipping away as I rushed to make the noon pick up of my 4-year-old from preschool. I anxiously rolled my car in line of the doctor’s office parking structure after scrambling through my purse for the parking ticket that was actually staring at me from my lap.
Finally, finally … it was my turn.
(Time check, I could make it, coffee is around the corner)
I handed my ticket to the attendant as I picked up a phone call, staring at the clock, gulping down some water while figuring out my driving route and writing my next message in my head. I was far from present, impatiently questioning in my head why the attendant was taking longer than she had with the cars before me …
(Time check, this took way too long, now I’m late!)
I read a few more messages while rerouting my drive with the few seconds I could steal.
“Your hair is so beautiful,” the attendant said.
Confused and completely frazzled in my mind, I looked over responded with a “I’m sorry, what was that?” (really wanting to ask “is there a problem, may I go now?”)
Then she slapped my self-absorbed face with her warmest smile, one that completely stopped me in my tracks and restated, “I really like what you did with it, it’s gorgeous.”
I let out the most embarrassed sigh. Quickly remembering where I was and what I was doing, I let her kindness replace my anxiety with a chuckle, returning her compliment with a big smile of my own, and a “Thank you, I love yours as well!” genuinely adoring her full head of curls that framed her face so well.
I drove off, and instead of rushing to squeeze in that cup of coffee, I took the time to talk to God while I made my way towards my son.
“Thank you,” was the focal point of this prayer.
This parking attendant completely turned my morning around.
Just with a genuine smile, and a compliment — she gave me confidence to remember the little things. You know, the ones we tend to overlook, because it’s so easy to get wrapped up in our own worries.
In my moment of unpresent and auto-piloted exhaustion, her compliment gave me grace. So I try, every morning, to pay it forward and remind myself to give grace to someone else.
Here’s a few ways you can too:
5 Ways You Can Brighten Someone’s Day, By Giving a Little Grace
1.Say the magic words.
“Please” and “Thank you”! We now live in a society of immediate supply and demand. We can order this or customize that to our liking, any moment of the day. But asking politely and appreciating the actions of others can combat this growing notion that we’re entitled to everything. We’re not though, and we can choose to reciprocate kind gestures.
It’s one of the simplest gestures of them all, so it’s easy to skip it. But saying the magic words set the tone of how we also would like to be treated, and remembered.
When I see a stranger smile at me, it does two things:
One, creep me out. Joking! But in all seriousness, it makes me self-aware. Am I doing something towards them to make them feel happy, did I possibly make them laugh? Maybe they’re just being polite. Without fail, I resort to the latter. Regardless, smiles are contagious, just like laughs are.
Two, smiles given to me remind me how much better it is to choose happy, and to share it. I could be having the worst day ever, but if someone goes out of their way to smile at me in passing, I immediately am conscious of what message my face is delivering. I want to deliver kindness and nothing else … whether it’s the first time or the 100th time I’ve seen them.
3. Hold the door.
Or simply, look for other opportunities to help. We’re all in need of something, be it material or emotional, or even spiritual. Something as small as getting up out of your seat to offer it to the elderly across the room, or leaving a fun note and some change in the machine at the laundromat for the next user — we never know how far the gesture can go, so it’s worth a try.
4. Stay, or Walk Away.
Sometimes, all someone needs is someone to talk to, or someone to listen. Investing interest in someone else, even if for one minute, while we put our thoughts on pause, could make the world of a difference to someone else.
And other times, we can make someone’s day by walking away — you know, those unfortunate times where our human limitations get the best of us, our blood boils out of frustration and we find ourselves possibly a little overly expressive? Yea … those times can be tough. But consciously watching our words, actions and reactions — speaking with grace — it can all greatly impact the quality of time we have with others and the lasting impression we make on the relationships we have.
5. Slow down.
In other words, be present. Just as I was rushing to move on to the next agenda item of my day when the kind parking attendant complimented me, I’m reminded every day of how important it is to stop and give someone else a moment of me; of my attention, my heart, my energy. It’s a conscious, constant effort I’m learning to make that opens up more opportunities to do good onto others.
I pray to never be remembered as the person who was “too busy to look up.” I want to carry the love of Christ in my heart, and have it written all over my face at all times, even the busiest, most chaotic ones. I learn this every day from people around me doing good.
I want to do good, by giving grace to others. I know what it did (and what it does!) to me, and I pray for more opportunities to share this simple act of kindness to others.
@LoisPaula is a full-time staff member at INC Media Services. With a background in public relations, she’s always drawn to opportunities that promote positive social change and raise the visibility of a life led by God. Mostly, she’s just navigating the everyday balance of faith and family herself, while reading the pages of the story God writes for her 4-year-old boy and soon-to-be baby girl with her husband in Orange County, Calif.