Hot Chocolate with Strangers


If I left before the 6:15 bus in the mornings to school, the dawn cold and quiet, I could go early to the Burger King by the bus stop and a gentleman would buy me hot chocolate and talk with me.  Now in this day and age that sounds highly suspect (actually in that day and age it did too) but I was never worried.  I have no idea how old he was (everyone is old when one is fifteen), but he always had a suit and tie on.  He told me one morning in line that he would buy the hot drink for me and every time I went there I could count on him being there and repeating the favor.  We would sit in a booth and he would let me chatter on about life and school and my future.  He never told me about himself (I probably didn’t let him get a word in) but always smiled as I rattled on.  He always seemed genuinely happy to see me.

I sure hope I thanked him.  There is no way he could know that nearing three decades later that his kindness stays filed in my memory, but I send him good wishes now and then.

We had a full house growing up.  My siblings younger than I were inseparable and we always had foster babies.  My dad worked, my mom cared for the little ones, and though they didn’t mean it, I always felt left out and led a rather lonely childhood.  So when people took notice of me, or were actually interested in my stories, it stayed with me.  Boosting my self esteem as a young woman just a bit more.  I don’t mean interested in me physically, I mean as a soul, as a person, not just some teenager.

Father W would pick us up, my sister and brother sat in the backseat, and I in the front.  He would take us up to the hot springs and out to lunch.  It was a lot of fun and he seemed to always appreciate our company.  He would ask me what I was going to be when I grew up.  We did this every time because every time he saw me I changed my mind.  I could see the corners of his mouth holding his pipe curve up trying not to laugh as I filled him in on my latest adventures yet to be.  “I am going to Oxford!” I proclaimed.  “I am going to be a Rockette in New York!” I decided.  “I am going to be a nurse!” a vet….a writer…a model…

He never said that I couldn’t do or be those things, he never gave advice, he just smiled and nodded and puffed on his pipe.  I appreciated being heard.

Now, these are little things.  Minute moments in life when someone took the time to let me speak and showed me attention not expecting perfect manners or etiquette, not expecting anything in return, they just listened and let me shine.  They probably would have never guessed that I would remember those moments so many years later.

We do tend to get caught up in our lives, don’t we?  Next time you see a young person, maybe offer to buy them coffee.  Or compliment them.  Or give them encouragement.  Don’t try to change them, argue with them, convert them, or the like.  Just listen and smile and send them good wishes for their future.  Little things like that stick with people, help mold them and inspire them.  And will brighten your day as well.