A broad smile erupted on James’ face the minute Jack walked in the door of our neighborhood store. James (his American name) and his wife Bok are immigrants from South Korea. As proprietors of The Donut Palace, they treat every customer with care and grace. But they seem to have a special place in their hearts for Jack. Maybe it’s the countless kisses Jack blew their way as an infant. Maybe it’s the excited twinkle shining in Jack’s eye as he peeks through the window case and eagerly points to the yummy confections on the other side. I’m not sure, but the connection is palpable.
“Oh… Good Morning, Jack,” the gentle James greets our toddler. As he speaks, he can’t help but bow his head up and down. Is this a sign of hospitality, possibly respect … I’m not sure. But Jack instinctively mimics the movement and offers his reply. A shy, barely audible, “Hi.”
I feel James’ infectious smile wander over to my face, and I too slightly bow my head as I greet him, “Good morning… How are you?”
Ignoring the line that has gathered behind me, we exchange pleasantries. Then I succumb to the growling stomachs, “We’ll have a small box, today. Thanks so much.” The kids clamor over each other, happily pointing to the sprinkle, then the cake, followed by chocolate covered, and the all-time favorite donut holes.
James leans down and peeks at Jack through the window. “What would you like today, Jack?” James asks, his English broken, thick with accent.
Jack pointed across the glass, “I want that one, that one, that one, that one, … and those!” Thankfully James looked to me. I shortened the order just a bit.
Normally, the kid asks for a blueberry cake and a few plain holes. Today, Jack pointed to a plain cake, chocolate sprinkle, chocolate and plain holes … and then some. I nodded at James who placed a couple in the box and we all moved to the cash register.
After ringing up our order, James snuck back behind the counter. Eyeing the register displayed amount that most certainly low-balled the actual cost of our box, I began digging through my wallet to find a larger amount than required. It’s a sort of game we play each week (yes, each week!). They undercharge. I overpay. It’s silly … but we continue the banter, almost as if we’re dancing a polite waltz.
I placed the bill on his till and watched him scurrying behind the glass. By this time, the other patrons were eager to place their orders. So James graciously came back to us and handed me the small, stuffed box. Bowing and smiling, he blew a kiss to Jack who responded in kind.
“Bye, Jack,” he laughed. “See you again soon.”
“Bye,” quietly offered the little boy, blowing the man a kiss one last time. The other kids chimed in their “thank-you’s” and good-bye’s as we turned for the door.
“Wait,” bellowed James. “One more thing.” He held out a small white lunch sack, his charcoal black eyes barely visible through the squinty smile.
I nodded at Sister Save-A-Lot who turned to retrieve the sack. We all smiled in return and exchanged warm wishes again. Then our crew piled into the car, buckled and we headed for home.
Pulling out of the parking lot, I reached for the white sack. I thought he had probably given us a few extra donuts. Which he had. But they weren’t just any donuts. They were Jack’s donuts…. a blueberry and two plain cakes. Exactly the donuts James’ little friend Jack adores.
My heart was touched by the simple, yet profound, act of kindness bestowed upon this little boy, a boy who has generously shared love by engaging this donut store couple for most of his young life.
Might the enormity of the seemingly small act never be lost on me. How often do we race through life? Forgetting that people are always on the other side of a transaction. People with a history, with feelings, with depth. Human beings that at the core of their existence crave relationship.
The relationship between these two individuals transcends age, nationality, socioeconomic, and language barriers. It has unintentionally touched both of their hearts.
I pause to drink in the moment.
May I intentionally do the same with those whose path I cross.
Thanks for walking the road with me.