Sunday, December 1, 2013

Cranberry Bliss Bars. And an Opal.

'Tis the season for the Cranberry Bliss Bar at Starbucks!  This beloved dessert makes its appearance around this time every year.  It is never around for very long, so you can't wait on it; you have to seek it out and enjoy it as if it might be gone tomorrow, because it very well might be!  These bars are small, triangle-shaped treats, with a blondie-cake crust bursting with white chocolate chunks.  The cake is topped with a sweet cream cheese icing, and layered with sweet cranberries.  It is a perfect mixture of flavors, as the cream cheese icing plays off of the white chocolate chunks and the cranberries add a tart sweetness in every bite.  It's a one-of-a-kind dessert, found only at Starbucks, and trust me, if you try it, you won't be disappointed.  

The Cranberry Bliss Bar always makes me think about random acts of kindness.  A few years ago, when ordering one at my local Starbucks, the barista gave me two bars, simply because the first one she put in the bag broke in half.  "No one should have to eat a broken Cranberry Bliss Bar," she said.  It was one of those unexpected moments of kindness that can happily change the course of your day.

I would like to share another random act of kindness story.  Actually, I have two, but I will save one for next week.  The first story was shared with me a few years ago, and takes place in a store during the holiday shopping season. Here's what happened.

A customer walked into a jewelry store in the hopes of selling some jewelry.  It was about a month before Christmas.  Gold was selling high at the time, and the woman had lots of forgotten jewelry--broken chains, earrings without a match, old bracelets, and some necklaces that were actually in very good shape, but which she never wore.  A sales clerk came over to wait on her, and the customer unpacked all of her unwanted jewelry.  As the sales clerk began to inventory the pieces, she noted that some of them were really beautiful.  "I know," said the customer. "I just never wear them anymore." 

The two women continued to talk as the sales clerk packaged up all of the jewelry to be appraised. She happened to admire a very nice ring that the customer was wearing, and the customer said that her husband had gotten it for her for one of their anniversaries.  The sales clerk said that he had really good taste.  

Looking through the rest of the jewerly, the customer shared that one of the earrings she had brought in was a particular favorite, but she had lost its match and she hated not being able to wear it anymore. The sales clerk said that she knew how that felt, to lose a piece of jewelry, and told the customer the story of her opal ring.

Her father had given her the ring.  It was a simple gold ring with a lovely opal set in the center.  He had passed away some years ago, and the sales clerk treasured the ring in remembrance of him.  The sales clerk pointed out similar opals in the glass case, explaining the size and color of her beloved opal ring.  

One day, the sales clerk said, she had realized that the opal was missing from its center setting.  She realized that she must have lost it in her car, and she tore the car apart looking for it, but she never found it. She kept the ring with its empty prongs, and wished she had been able to find the opal so that she could wear the ring.  Especially because it reminded her of her father.  But she never did find it.

"You should buy another opal and have it set in the ring," said the customer. "The jeweler here would probably be able to help you out with that."

The sales clerk explained that her husband would not let her buy an opal to replace the one she lost.

"Maybe he'll buy one for you," said the customer.

"No, he won't," said the sales clerk. "But at least I still have the ring."

The appraisals were finished soon after.  The customer decided which pieces she wanted to sell, and she left with a check, thanking the sales clerk for all of her help.  

A few weeks later, just before Christmas, the customer returned to the store and specifically asked for the sales clerk she had worked with.  The sales clerk remembered her and greeted her with a warm smile.  

The customer said, "I have a gift for you," and placed a small box on the counter. The sales clerk looked at her, puzzled, and opened the box.  

Inside the box was an opal.  

"I hope it's the right size," said the customer.  "Here's the name of the store where I bought it. The jeweler there said he will set it for you, and if it's not the right size, he will give you a credit and get you one that will match your ring."  The sales clerk was shocked and said she couldn't accept such a gift. But the customer insisted, saying that the opal was specifically for her, and that now she could wear her ring again.  The women exchanged hugs, and a few tears, and then the customer left the store.  And the two women never saw each other again.

Why did the customer buy the clerk that opal?  Maybe it was because she felt guilty, selling unwanted jewelry and talking about her husband's gifts, while the sales clerk could not even get permission to purchase an opal for herself. Maybe it was because she felt sad, sad that the sales clerk had lost her father, and had lost the opal, the best reminder that she had of her father. Maybe it was because the holidays were coming and she wanted to do something that would make someone happy.  

Who really knows why people commit random acts of kindness?  I think the best random acts probably don't involve a lot of forethought.  For the woman who bought the opal, there were probably a hundred reasons not to do it.  But she did it anyway.  And her act changed two lives, on that day, and in that moment. 

It's like the Cranberry Bliss Bar.  The chance to make someone's day might be gone tomorrow.  Why not take that chance?  

Stay tuned for another random act of kindness story next week! 

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