A couple of years ago, we had one of those cold spells that are so much a part of Nebraska winters. The high for the day had been below zero. It was a week or two before Christmas, and even though it was so cold that it hurt to be outside, I attempted to complete some Christmas shopping on my lunch hour.
As I approached a store, hurrying in an attempt to keep warm, I saw a young woman ringing a bell by the Salvation Army bucket. She was completely bundled up from head to toe, but there is no way she did not still feel the cold. She rang the bell diligently, as if the motion might help her to warm up a little.
I greeted her and said, “My, you are dedicated to be standing here in the cold.” She laughed and said, “I’m so cold I can’t feel it any more!” She had been there since 8:00 that morning, and it was now noon! And she still had several hours to go.
Having only a couple of dollars with me, I gave her one of them and went inside to shop. I did not find anything to buy that day, so I was leaving empty handed. As I arrived at the front of the store, I saw the snack bar and suddenly an idea came to me. Since it was so cold, I would use my remaining dollar and buy the young Salvation Army bell ringer a cup of coffee or cocoa.
I bought the biggest cup of cocoa I could get with my dollar. I was a little bit uncomfortable at first, not knowing how she would react to this gesture, or even if she liked cocoa. As I exited the store, she smiled and said, “You didn’t buy anything! And it’s still cold!” I presented her with the cocoa and said, “Here, I thought you might need this. Maybe it will warm you up a little bit.”
She started crying and said, “Thank you so much! I was really wishing I could get something warm to drink, but I couldn’t leave!” Then she came up and hugged me.
Her reaction told me I did the right thing. I performed a small gesture of kindness, but she ended up making my day a lot brighter. She taught me that gratitude, even for a little thing like a cup of cocoa, can make someone feel warm all over.