Turn the Page ... by BA Dillon
Last month my entire column focused on my 2013 resolutions, and I alluded to the promise that I intended to make fourteen new goals for 2014. As the clock struck midnight on December 31, I had in fact recorded fourteen new promises to myself that includes drinking more water and weeding through the massive amount of clutter in my home.
Since February has everything to do with the heart, I decided to add a simple non-measurable goal to my list of fourteen resolutions. Number eight on my list this year is to Start Each Day With A Grateful Heart. Even though I absolutely love a great “love story” and anything to do with romance, I am not going to fill my article with words about love. Instead the theme of this column is kindness. Interestingly enough, something uniquely beautiful happened to me in early December that had such an impact – I just have to share.
As of December 13, 2013, I became the proud mother of TWO college graduates. My son had just wrapped up his final semester at the University of Central Florida, and walked in his black robe across the big stage at the 9:00am ceremony on Friday, December 13. I was the very proud mother sitting in the front row. Yeah … I snagged a front row seat. Due to scheduling and car issues, I attended this ceremony alone and traveled from my Tampa home to Orlando in a rental car. When all was said and done, my son accepted his well-earned diploma, I took a ton of pictures, and we had a wonderful celebratory lunch with friends afterward.
With the events of the day done, I began to make my journey back to Tampa in my adorable rental car – a very new VW bug. In order to bypass traffic, I elected to take a toll road as opposed to Interstate 4. I was aware the tolls would cost nearly fifteen dollars, but it would be money well spent in order to avoid the heavy Disney traffic along Interstate-4 Westbound. As I approached the first toll, I handed over enough cash to the toll booth operator saying “I’d like to pay for the car behind me.” I was in a great mood and had a permanent smile plastered on my face. I just felt like sharing.
For the next five tolls, I repeated my mantra for the day, enjoying sharing a simple gift of kindness to the unknown traveler behind me. When I approached the sixth toll, the operator placed out his hand to wave me on saying, “It’s your lucky day miss … that gentleman in the car ahead of you paid your toll.” Smiling broadly I waved to the elderly gentleman in the toll booth and moved quickly back into traffic. And that’s when my day changed and reminded me that no act of kindness, no matter how small is ever wasted (Aesop).
For the next three tolls, I was the recipient of a paid toll. The cost of my trip was paid at the seventh, eighth and ninth tolls. At tolls ten, eleven, and twelve, I once again added enough money to pay for the person behind me. I couldn’t help it! I was a proud mama, I was listening to a great playlist on my iPhone, and these simple acts of kindness were infectious. When I reached the last toll booth before the interstate, my plan was to complete my trip on Toll Road 417 Southbound with a bang. Prepared to offer the operator a ten dollar bill, I was met with a message that put the cherry on top of a truly fantastic weekend.
“What’s going on today?” The toll booth operator exclaimed. “Oh … it’s you!”
“Pardon me?” I replied somewhat perplexed.
“A gentleman came through about ten cars ago and handed me a twenty dollar bill. He told me to use the entire amount to pay the tolls of as many cars as it would cover.”
“Really?” I responded completely astonished.
“Yeah … and I’m pretty sure you started the whole thing! He said some lady in a grey VW bug had been paying his tolls for the last thirty-two miles. He said if I saw you, to let you know you made his day!”
“Awe … really?” With that I offered up my ten dollar bill and replied, “Well let’s see if we can keep that spirit alive all day! OK?” Bringing us out of our happy moment, the car behind us honked a reminder to move along. I simply waved and honked back.
What did I learn? We have the ability each and every day to lift the mood of everyone we come in contact with. And it doesn’t always have to be done with money. All someone has to do is use resources that they have at their disposal. It’s as easy as checking in on an elderly neighbor, offering to help a colleague with a heavy load to their car, or simply smiling at your unknown neighbors while traveling the aisles of the grocery store.
Instead of focusing on what you don’t’ have, recognize and make the best of the gifts you have been given. Grateful people are characterized by the appreciation of life’s simple pleasures, and happy people feel more gratitude in their lives. The bottom line … when you look at a person, any person, remember that everyone has a story. Everyone has gone through some monumental life event that has changed them.
The moral of this story my friends … if you can’t do great things; do small things in a great way. On December 13, 2013 at least three people, two drivers on Florida Toll Road 417 southbound and one very happy toll operator, had a day they will never forget. Aesop would be so proud.
Recommended Reading –
E Squared by Pam Trout and The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success by Deepak Chopra