A friend of mine started posting her status updates on Facebook a year or so ago using the framework of three good things or 3GT. Every day she takes stock of the things that happened and highlights three positive things. I love reading her posts, because I can tell you that her life isn’t all sunshine and rainbows and unicorns frolicking in fields of clover. She has struggles like the rest of us have. Her young daughters have been through major surgeries in their short lives. Their father serves in the military and can’t always be at home. She works as an emergency department nurse. And those are just a few of the everyday challenges. Some days the three good things are profound; other days they are quite simple. But every day she finds a way to express gratitude.
Two of her recent posts struck me.
The first, she wrote: “Paid it forward in the Starbucks drive-thru. I think it makes me feel as happy as the person on the receiving end. Everyone should try it.”
I remember reading a news story a while back (okay, let’s be honest, I probably just read a summary on Newser because that’s all I have time for if I’m going to keep up on everything that’s happening in the world) about a drive-thru somewhere that went nearly an entire day with people “paying it forward.”
It’s a simple concept… when you pay for your order you also pay for the vehicle behind you. Then they are left wondering all day if they know the person in front of them, or if it’s just some creeper, or if their prayers have been answered because they weren’t sure how they were going to pay for the next meal, or if they were finally getting the good karma returned to them for the time they let the person behind them buy a lottery ticket first and it turned out to be the winning numbers. And you are left knowing that you did something nice for a random person with no strings attached and no risk of falling into the trap of judging the circumstances of the individual’s life (you might; however, find yourself questioning their taste in menu items… it’s a gamble). It’s straight-up charitable giving. It’s a winning situation all around.
I’d heard of it done, but I’d never been on the receiving end, nor have I paid it forward in the drive-thru for others. But reading about someone I know choosing to do it, made me want to do it all the more.
About seven hours in to my drive home from North Carolina, I decided granola bars just weren’t going to cut it anymore. I felt like I needed something more. There was a McDonald’s next to the latest fuel stop, so I pulled into the drive-thru. As I paid for my meal, another car pulled in behind me and placed their order. The words from the 3GT post echoed in my head, and I thought to myself, “That’s such a nice thought; I should really do that sometime… as soon as I have a job.” And then, after hesitating just a moment longer, I asked the cashier if I could go ahead and pay for the car behind me as well. He looked at me kind of funny, and said, “I guess if you want to.” I nodded, and then felt thankful that, like me, the person had ordered from the dollar menu and wasn’t carting a high school soccer team with them. I pulled to the second window, collected my bag, and drove off… in the wrong direction and had to make a U-turn. When did I get so terrible at navigation? [Don’t answer that, Ryan.]
I think I’m going to make that a permanent thing for the drive-thru. If nothing else, it should keep me out of the drive-thru and eating healthier food at home… because I’ll have to ask myself, “Self, can you really afford to feed yourself and whoever pulls in behind you?” And sometimes the answer might be no. Until I get a job, I’m certain the answer will be no. Hooray for peanut butter and cereal and Indomie! Who wants a deliciously ice-creamy, Oreo-crumbly, McFlurry anyway? Or fresh, hot French fries with just the right ratio of salt-to-potato crispness on the outside, soft on the inside? Or an electric red shelled taco with spicy volcano sauce? It’s really too bad I don’t drink coffee… this could be an expensive new hobby.
The second thing she posted a few days later as part of her 3GTs was this:
“Honesty, even when it hurts.”
I love that. People are terrible communicators. I know I can be. So many times we are more concerned about how our message will be received, or that it might hurt feelings that we sugarcoat and caveat and do all sorts of things to protect ourselves or the feelings of others. As a result, people question where they stand, they draw conclusions they’d be better off without, and they wind up hurting anyway. It’s a vicious cycle.
Dogs are way better at honest, straightforward communication, and we could all probably take a lesson from them. Take my Joe for example. He is about the most easy-going dog when it comes to other dogs. I don’t worry about introducing him to other dogs, because he’s quick to make friends and enjoys their company. He enjoys a good game of chase, or a wrestling match, or a little tug competition. But, like people, dogs don’t like all dogs. Sometimes there are dogs they don’t like for one reason or another. Maybe it’s the way they smell. Maybe it’s the way they look. Maybe it’s the way they carry themselves. Maybe it’s the way they play. Even a dog’s dog like Joe can’t be expected to like every dog everywhere.
Enter Lexi. Lexi is my former housemate’s boxer. Joe does not like Lexi. I don’t know why. Lexi didn’t seem to have the same problem with Joe. She’d just as soon ignore him as anything else, but ignoring Lexi is not Joe’s style. Joe would bark and howl and make ugly faces whenever Lexi would walk by the door. He was not a fan. But he was honest about his feelings. I tried a neutral ground introduction with them. They made all the appropriate gestures to each other that indicated they would get along and not try to eat one another. Lexi raised her paw. Joe reciprocated. They both looked away. Lexi play bowed. Joe play bowed. And then Lexi, living up to her breed, proceeded to punch Joe in the head to initiate play. Joe did not see her move as play, and immediately went into defensive attack mode. Thus ended their brief socialization period. From that point on, I knew Joe was never going to accept Lexi into his inner circle of trust.
It’s not that dogs can’t learn to be appropriate with others, either. They can. Just like we can, and ought to be civil with those around us, whether we like them or not. But civility should not masquerade as friendship in an attempt to exploit a relationship. Honesty. Even when it hurts. It’s okay to dislike another person, but it is not okay to speak ill of them behind their back. Joe never said anything about Lexi to anyone but Lexi. It was with her that he had the problem, so it was with her that it should be addressed. [Although, Joseph, assaulting another dog is never the answer, and I hope you learned your lesson on that one.]
Dogs are probably the most well adjusted social creatures, if not the happiest. They hold no grudges following disagreements. They don’t pretend to be anything they are not, but that doesn’t bar them from modifying and improving their behavior. It’s not quite a “take me as I am or leave me” mentality. It’s more of acceptance for who they are, with a willingness to learn new behaviors that benefit them in the long run. Confident humility.
I read another blog (which I cannot recommend highly enough) and she frequently says, “The truth hurts, but the truth heals…” It’s usually repeated during difficult moments of self-realization and reflection. But recognizing the truth gives us the opportunity to act a little better.
I am trying to learn from my friends, my animals, and from my experiences to be grateful, to act in charity, and to be honest, even when it hurts. And while the truth hurts sometimes, the truth always heals.
It’s a journey, and I’m glad you’re hitchhiking along with me.