It’s Only Coffee.

Today was one of those days when California’s weather thought it would be funny to play a little trick, fooling its residents with sunshine when a jacket was actually more appropriate.

The way the fog rolls in off the ocean during the summer evenings just as the light begins to fade is the same way the fog rolled in today, but it started around 1 or 2pm instead, a telltale sign of a brisk night to come. Soft tufts of gray moved low and fast overhead thanks to a chilly breeze, and they gave way to the rays only when they had to. I don’t think the day made it much past 60 at its warmest, likely hovering in the high 50s for the majority.

When I lived in Michigan and Connecticut, I would often make the mistake of equating sunshine with warmth. I did the same thing today. I stepped out in a tank, cardigan, jeans and flip-flops, then was too lazy to go back inside to change when I realized I’d made the wrong choice.

The atmosphere’s indecisiveness last evening had left my car a mess, its silver paint speckled like a cheetah with charcoal spots. Had it actually decided to rain in a more steady manner, the shower might’ve been a decent stand-in for a carwash. But, alas, it didn’t.

I arrived at the carwash and the same guy who’s usually there saw me pull up. He wrote my ticket then handed it to me as I exited the car, not needing to ask me what wash and scent I wanted. We’re cool like that.

Another guy, a relative of ticket-writer-guy, was inside at the register. I passed a pot of coffee that seemed freshly brewed, paid for the wash and he handed me my claim ticket.

The coffee beckoned.

I asked him if I could pay for a small coffee right then, or if I should pour it, then bring it back to pay. He indicated the latter. My frozen toes and I shuffled over to it, poured the most gigantic small coffee I’d ever seen in my life, and we made our way back to the register.

I placed the coffee on the counter and began searching for some money; he picked up the cup then moved it to the far end. I figured I must have been at the wrong, not-for-food-purchases register or something.

“Oh, my bad,” I said, and moved down to where he had placed it, continuing to rummage in my purse for a couple of dollars.

“No,” he said, waving his hand gently. 

I looked up at him. “No?” I repeated.

“You don’t need to pay,” he explained.

“What? Why?” I asked.

“It is cold outside. And it is only coffee. Please, no money.”

To say that his kindness warmed me more than the coffee had yet been able to sounds corny beyond belief, but it was such a small act of thoughtfulness that — as I sat outside, cradling the toasty cup and watching the fog race by overhead — I wondered what other everyday things we could easily make extraordinary by gifting them to others.

Today I am thankful for the reminder that kindness can live in the smallest, most unexpected of places. While it’s only coffee to one, it’s so much more to another.

Who will you be coffee for tomorrow?

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