One of my secret pleasures during this Covid mess: about once a month in a Starbucks drive through I pay for the person behind me. It is truly a random act, with the hidden agenda of trying, in a very small way, to redirect a tiny piece of the universe. Chaos theory says that a butterfly meandering through the Amazon can affect us. So, this is my shot at trying to affect change. I am always careful to zip away as they are picking up their order. I need no thank you. My joy comes in making up stories about how a free Mocha Frappuccino might land in the lap of someone who just needs a boost.
I know there is a Netflix series in this plot, but I take more joy in just making up my own plots of how a random trip through a drive through, shifted anger to gratitude. I have being doing this about two years, and it’s never premeditated, but rather, raw impulse.
Fridays I usually spend the morning gathering with a few kindred spirits at Cherry Creek State Park. I swing by the same Starbucks so than I can get a fresh drink to take to the gathering. The woman at the window who almost always greets is named “Shorty”. Shorty always remembers my name and to be in her presence is to feel important. Yesterday, after getting my Venti Iced Coffee with a pump of mocha and coconut milk. I told Shorty I was paying for the guy behind me who was alone in modest Toyota. She hit the pay button and said, “Well Mark, this is over $23– do you still want to pay”? I thought for a moment knowing I had $25left on the card and said—“Sure, I can’t back out now”. I took my exit and thought, “Who knows what all he got”.
Well, when I got to the park the receipt came up on my Starbucks app. I opened it and the app showed me the entire order. There were two fancy drinks and two breakfast sandwiches. I have no idea who he is, but I know exactly what he and a mystery guest had for breakfast. I went in and checked the balance on my account—$1.56. I had more left than I thought. So much of my life has been shaped by the generosity of others. Every dime I have made in 45 years of pastoral ministry has been given to me by others. That is not lost on me. When I see a guy on dialysis, in a wheel chair, sitting on the front row of church making sure his offering is given, it makes me want to be present to the work I am still doing.
Some would call this ‘paying it forward’— that works sort of. For me its not so much about paying but passing. Paying has an expectation with it. “I give, I get”. There is another kind of giving—“I give because I have been given to”. Well, next month I will have a reloaded Starbucks card and when the impulse strikes I will get to play this game one more time. Maybe behind me will be a 3/4 ton diesel truck with two American flags and MAGA stickers and the nudge of that spirit that never lies will say, “Alright Mark, pony up”!!!
Onward and Upward, Mark