A few days ago I dropped in to a bakery and asked for half a dozen breadrolls. I was a little embarrassed to find myself a couple of dollars short of the $3.60 I needed. The lady who was serving (and who didn’t know me) said to just give her what I had and give her the rest next time. I was impressed. This kind of giving before getting doesn’t happen very often, especially among strangers.
When I thought about it later I realised that the risk for the business was actually quite low. Sure, there was a chance that I would not return, and that the $2 would be lost. But, there was a higher chance that I would repay the money. There was also a fairly good possibility that I would become a more frequent customer and share my positive impression with others. For a very low outlay of $2 the business could end up gaining hundreds of dollars of benefit from this act of goodwill.
The simple gesture of a bakery giving a breadroll to someone before they can pay is not trivial. It shows flexibility, trust and generosity. It contributes to the kind of community in which people help other people out. A world where this was the norm would be a better place.
We don’t all work in bakeries but we do all have plenty of opportunities of giving before getting. We can do it in our community by lending something to a neighbour. We can do it at home by being the first to give an apology after a disagreement. We can also do it at work by giving a colleague a hand with something they are struggling with (even when we have plenty on our own plates). This is the kind of thing that goes a long way to creating a human workplace.
I’m going to be more on the lookout for times when I can practice giving before getting, in all aspects of my life. I’m sure there’ll be plenty of opportunities if I’m open to them, and I’m sure I won’t regret it.
By the way the bakery is called Holland Place Bakery and it’s at 928 Logan Road Holland Park in Brisbane. I highly recommend it!
For another article on acts of kindness and the difference these can make you may want to read Small Gestures of Appreciation.