— Francois-Marie Arouet (Voltaire)
French Philosopher (1694-1778)
Acts of kindness don’t always go unnoticed.
Nor are they unappreciated, undervalued or taken for granted.
Sometimes the recipient just needs an appropriate forum for saying “thank you,” especially when that individual knows of no other way of doing it. The need to express oneself is compounded even more when the person’s heart has been touched at a time of special need by someone whose identity is known only to the doer of the good deed and none other.
And so it is with Kelley Caldwell, a Georgetown resident whose life recently intertwined — ever so briefly — with a kind and noble stranger whose path she will probably never again cross.
Kelley sent a handwritten note to our newspaper and addressed it only to “Editor.”
Our newsroom has several editors but on this occasion the letter made its way to my desk. I am glad it did. It’s the kind of story that should be told, re-told and told again to anyone with an ear for, an appreciation of and a personal experience with this kind of gracious act. Today, I’ll serve as Kelley’s messenger but the story is hers and she tells it best.
Kelley prefaced her note “Dear Editor” and began:
“I was wondering if there could be any way you could put something in the paper for me? Let me tell you what happened to me the other day at Hardee’s. I was waiting in the drive-thru to pay the lady for my food. I started to hand her my Debit card and she said, ‘Oh, the man who was in front of you paid for yours and the three cars behind you.’ I had no clue who the man was!”
Kelley added in her note to the editor, “I just want him to know that he really made my day because right now in my life I am having a hard time. I hope you consider putting what I am about to write in the paper. Thank you!”
On the second page of Kelley’s note, she writes the following message directly to the stranger in the vehicle in front of her in the Hardee’s drive-thru on that gentle day:
“Thanks to the angel ahead of me at the drive-thru at Hardee’s who paid for my order without even knowing my name. He has no way of knowing about the things that are going on in my life. But I want him to know that he helped restore my faith in people. It just goes to show that God is alive and there are angels among us.”
In a postscript, Kelley thanked the newspaper editor for considering her letter for publication and asked that we notify her by e-mail if we intended on publishing her message of thanks.
That was done Tuesday evening.
Kelley’s letter didn’t authorize me to use her name but it’s being published in the same spirit in which she intended the letter in the first place — one of offering a warm “thank you” to someone unbeknownst to the writer. Kelley is thanking the gentle-hearted driver in front of her. I am thanking Kelley for taking the time to sit down, commit her innermost thoughts to paper and mailing them to us.
You see, as gracious an act as it was for that anonymous man to pay for her meal — as well as the meals of those behind her — it was an equally genuine act for Kelley to remember to say “thank you.” She didn’t know to whom. But she offered her deepest appreciation nonetheless.
In today’s frantic pace, “thank you” is sometimes the least regarded pair of words in the English vocabulary.
Yet, they are two of the easiest to say.
And when put to print, they carry a measure of their own.
In life’s experiences, I have learned people don’t perform acts of kindness in anticipation of a return. They do them because they want to do them — and because these courtesies are the right thing to do. If they receive a “thank you” in the offing, it is always appreciated yet accepted without expectation.
When Kelley pulled into the drive-through window at that tender place in time, she had no reason to believe in miracles — neither big nor small.
Now she does.
And she again believes in angels.
Hope is restored.