Kindness and Trader Joe’s came together on Valentine’s Day. Two weeks ago, I caught the flu and have slowly been recovering since. Yesterday was the first day I felt human enough to resume more rigorous activities, so I hit the gym. Fifteen minutes in, I knew I was toast. I honored my body and decided to run errands, so I headed to Trader Joe’s.

If you’ve ever been very sick, you know how it feels once you start to “feel human” again. You want to escape the house. You’ll even do mundane things because they feel “normal.” Going out feels like new-found freedom, even if it just means rambling through grocery aisles. I’m normally a clumsy person, and even more so when I’m tired. As I bagged my groceries, the cranberry juice smashed to the ground. In Italian terms, I felt “stunod” (tired and foggy) and the spattered juice proved it. As the cleaning crew mopped the cashier station, I grabbed another juice bottle.

When I returned to my groceries, the cashier handed me a new reusable shopping bag with a bouquet of flowers.

“I think you can use these today. Happy Valentine’s Day,” he said, smiling.

Every day, we make choices. We choose what we watch, read and listen to. We constantly react, positively or negatively, to each interaction and situation. Think of social media. Think of 24/7 news. We are forgetting how to connect, empathize and be kind. Then these little moments, like Trader Joe’s, happen and change everything. Like an echo, the tiniest actions influence a chain of events affecting countless others. The next time you have an opportunity to connect, ask yourself:

  • How will my words, thoughts and actions impact myself and others?
  • How can I make a positive difference that may impact countless others?

The “magic” I experienced may seem small, but it wasn’t. In an instant, the cashier’s actions showed why we need kindness and connection. This stranger’s generosity meant a lot to someone feeling tired and shabby. I left the store smiling.

Gratitude. Kindness. Community. I won’t forget this Valentine’s Day – the day I met humanity in a grocery line. We never know what the person next to us is going through. The smallest gestures can make the biggest difference. Consider offering good will beyond the holidays every day. Say “hello,” open a door, carry someone’s groceries. Offer change to your neighbor at the coffee shop. Lend somebody a pen. Imagine the impact we can make together, building connection, gratitude and community, one gesture at a time.