Open Letter to the Police Officer in the Starbucks Drive-Thru

I only saw the back of your head for a few minutes, but the kindness you showed today in the Starbucks drive-thru remains front and center in my mind.

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I only saw the back of your head for a few minutes, but the kindness you showed today in the Starbucks drive-thru remains front and center in my mind. 

Your patrol car was directly in front of me in line, and you had just placed your order. I didn’t know you, and had never done this before, but when I rolled up to the intercom, something compelled me to ask the voice for a favor instead of a coffee.

“Hi, when the police officer in front of me arrives at your window, will you please tell him that the gal behind him wants to pay for his order – and let him know it’s because I appreciate his service to our community and wanted to thank him?”

“Of course,” she said, “that will be very nice.”

I ordered my usual, and a minute later there your car was at the cashier window. Suddenly I was nervous. Or embarrassed, maybe. Would you, after Diane-the-barista told you this random stranger wanted to pay for you, glance at me through your windshield mirror and see me trying not to notice you but totally noticing? I awkwardly studied the lint on my shirt.

When I looked up, you were giving the barista your credit card. Oh, had I violated some fraternization police rule against public gifts? Had my payment offer insulted your pride? Had Diane messed up the message? Did I just look creepy in your rearview mirror?

I was sad when you drove away, feeling I had somehow failed at niceness.

It was my turn at the window, and I asked Diane why you didn’t let me pay. I didn’t expect her answer.

“The most amazing thing just happened. I told him how you appreciated his service, wanted to thank him and pay for his order…”

And then she explained that you told her it was one of the best gestures of kindness you’ve received in a really long time. So, you insisted on paying for your own order… and then paying for mine.

I didn’t know what to say. And neither did Diane, as we were in love with the moment and the fact we had just unexpectedly witnessed the ‘pay-it-forward’ principle work beautifully in reverse.

You’ll probably never know how profoundly you uplifted and inspired me today – and that I smiled all the way home. But I hope that at least this story will inspire others that even in a society seemingly full of negativity and greed, the smallest random act of kindness wins out every single time.

Thank you for turning your $2 cup of coffee into my pot of gold.

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