This is an open letter to the driver in front me in the Starbucks drive-thru this afternoon. Though it’s very unlikely that you will read this, I hope someone will read it and feel inspired to spread kindness, too.

Today is Thanksgiving Day in the US. It’s a day that is joyful and happy for many people; however, that’s not the case for my family any more. Yesterday, I struggled emotionally all day long. I wasn’t sure if it was my usual depression or if it was a subconscious anticipation of the month ahead of me. I guess I’ve figured out that it’s the latter this time. Or, maybe it’s a combination of the two, I don’t know. Whatever it is, I have been a huge mess. I have tried to hold it together for almost two full years now and I think my emotional lock-box is bursting at the seams. I’ve been crying all day, even sobbing at times.

You, beautiful person in front of me at Starbucks today, did not know any of this, yet you still touched me deeply in ways you will likely never know.

Our kids are all gone at various holiday gatherings and my husband has to work, so I’m spending the day at home by myself. To make things easier on him and to get some fresh air, I drove him to work. On the way there, I saw that the Starbucks near my freeway route was open and I decided I would stop on the way home. I dropped my husband off and as soon as he was out of the car, the current song on the radio ended, transitioning to a Green Day song. Now, I’m not sure exactly how I feel about signs from the afterlife, or even if there is an afterlife at all, but it sure seems that every time I’m thinking about Jen in the car, Green Day (her favorite band) comes on the radio. I said (out loud), “Not now, Jen, I can’t do this” and changed the station – right to the Linkin Park lyrics, “Don’t turn your back on me, I won’t be ignored.” Not only did the words say something to me, but Linkin Park was the last concert we went to with Jen, two months before she was killed. “Okay, okay, I get it,” I said.

I was crying the whole way to Starbucks. I got in line in the drive-thru and noticed the paw-shaped magnet on the back of the silver SUV at the speaker. It said, “Spoiled Pit Bull On Board,” which made me smile. I’m a huge dog lover and our pibble mix is a big doofy source of laughter in our home. I love people who love their pets. Anyway, they ordered, I ordered, and then I pulled up behind them at the window.

I was still crying at this point and sent a group Facebook message to our other five kids, telling them I love them. The car in front of me left and I pulled up to the window, waiting to pay for my coffee (Salted Caramel Mocha with coconut milk and no whipped cream, my fave). After a minute or two, the extremely peppy barista with multi-colored hair who is often working the drive-thru at this location, came to the window. I held out my phone to pay and she told me the car in front of me had paid for my drink. This made me start sobbing again. This isn’t the first time this has happened to me (the random act of kindness part, not the sobbing part), but it hit me so hard today. I told the barista I had been having a really rough day and I was so thankful and grateful for this. She asked me if I wanted a pumpkin cheesecake bar (or something pumpkin-y, I might have that wrong, because I was too busy sobbing).

So here I am, ugly crying in front of this poor girl who has to work on Thanksgiving, trying to get the words out to thank her and tell her that I hope she has a great Thanksgiving. What a mess. I am an emotional wreck. I had to sit in the parking lot and cry for a minute before I could drive the rest of the way home. All that way, I thought about Jen and how she loved all her friends and family so very much with a deep unconditional love and I know this makes/would make her happy.

Why am I telling you this?

I felt compelled to share this story, not to bring anyone down, but to remind you that you really, truly, honestly don’t know what people around you are going through at any given moment and even small, simple acts of kindness can touch them, maybe even change their lives. Please remember that, and be kind whenever possible (it’s always possible). Pay it forward when you can. If you need ideas, check out my list here. It doesn’t have to be random to be meaningful.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone. Be consciously aware of what (and who) you are thankful for and say it out loud. Tell your loved ones what they mean to you. Do it right now.

Open Letter to the Person in Front of Me at Starbucks Today