January 20 Buy Lunch for A Stranger

mountain dew

“Every man must decide whether he will walk in the light of creative altruism or in the darkness of destructive selfishness.” Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

I typically don’t eat in cafeterias. Is it a holdover from elementary school? Traumatized by the mean lunch lady with the hairnet? I don’t know. But this is what I do know, I don’t like to see the people that are preparing my food. I’m quirky that way. I like the food to appear in front of me as if by magic while I happily wait in my seat. Barking out what I want and pointing over a glass windshield has never been my thing.

Today when I went to the cafeteria at work for lunch because I was pressed for time, I was not particularly exhilarated. As I walked to the cafeteria, I decided that what this lunch needed was a First. I’ve never purchased lunch for a complete stranger. That would be my exhilarating First today. That got me excited. The closer I got to the cafeteria, the more the anticipation grew. I was beaming, smiling at everybody I passed. They smiled back. My plan was simple, get my food and pay for the person behind me in line. I had a quick explanation memorized by the time I hit the cafeteria doors: “I challenged myself to do one new thing every day and today I would like to buy your lunch.” (Big smile). You know, so that it didn’t get all weird. How awkward might it be if the person mistook my kindness for something else, like (gulp) flirting? I was hoping that the recipient of my First would be happy. I was also secretly hoping that they might buy lunch for the person behind them and then that person might do the same for the person behind them and so on. I can dream, can’t I?

There I was, stranded between turkey on a ciabatta roll and nachos. I was trying not to look too closely at the person serving and preparing – it creeps me out. Focus. Ok, I decided on turkey and ciabatta and made my way to the line. I told myself not to turn around until the moment that I had completed the transaction for my lunch and I was ready to surprise the lucky duck behind me. It was all I could do NOT to turn around and give somebody a big, huge hug. I was so happy and excited. That’s what these Firsts will do for you. They will make you happy over the simplest things. I paid for my food and then I turned around, so excited that I almost spun in a circle! There was no one there. There was no one there. THERE WAS NO ONE THERE.

This place was swirling with activity, but apparently everyone else was hung up on the same major life decisions as I had just been hung up on: turkey on ciabatta or nachos? Everyone was in the other line! How could this happen? The Cash Register Guy probably thought I was absolutely insane at this point, spinning on my heels with a big huge grin plastered across my face for an imaginary person behind me. Without missing a beat, I kind of yelled over to the guy buying something across from me that “I challenged myself to do one new thing every day and today I would like to buy your lunch.” (Big smile). He was totally on board. He was happy. I was happy. The Cash Register Guy was happy. When I looked to see what wonderful free lunch items he was about to enjoy, all I saw was a Mountain Dew. He wasn’t even having a proper meal. It was sooooo awkward so I said, “Kinda wish you were buying food, dude.” He smiled and shrugged as if to say: I don’t eat in cafeterias, it creeps me out. I paid for his Mountain Dew. It just got weird.

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