GBS: Something Nice for a Stranger

By Jennie H.

I was sitting in Starbucks one day last week and observed an elderly lady walk in holding a box.

I waited until I thought she was ready to leave and got up to open the door for her. That’s when I noticed the box had two venti drinks tucked in with newspapers and I started asking questions.

No, really, I talked to a total stranger!

While she waited for two more venti drinks, she said she changed the newspaper stuffing frequently because of spills and “wished she could cover the outside of the box so she could wipe the spills off.” I snapped a quick photo and texted it to my friend Twayne and asked if we could improve her coffee transport method.

I told her I thought I could improve her coffee box as I walked her to her car.

Yes, by now, Dotsy and I were chatting away.

After Dotsy left, the barista told me that Dotsy comes in a few times a week and gets four Venti chai tea lattes. Her husband is homebound and can’t come to Starbucks with her anymore. She takes two of her drinks cold and two hot. They “enjoy one today and then she warms the others later in the week so they can have another treat.”

I knew my friend Twayne would help me. I mean, he has a wood shop, and power tools, and he’s creative.

And like-minded, though he’ll scoff if he reads this.

Twayne’s sketches

I showed up at Twayne’s shop with full bottles and empty cups (can’t show up empty handed, right?) to find Twayne had already sketched out the plans for the carrier.

See? I know how to pick a project partner!

The baristas also sent me home with four Venti cups for measuring purposes. I was unapologetically giddy as I left Starbucks that afternoon.

I love the thought of making someone smile.


Cutting the notches for the base of the handle and the divider. I’m being helpful by taking photos.

Twayne actually let me draw the handle.

And then promptly explained why my design wouldn’t work. Imagine plywood brass knuckles.

What? Yes, I traced my hand.

He suggested what he thought the handle should look like.

The annoying part? He was right.

Power tools! What’s not to love? Of course, after observing my less than stellar performance with the jigsaw, Twayne hovered, um, er, I mean actively engaged in my disc sanding technique. 
 Good thing, too. That thing really kicks and I almost gave myself a manicure…


See? I did something. And asked Twayne to snap a photo to prove it. 
 “Pictures or it didn’t happen,” right? 
(I also wanted photographic proof of recently having ALL of my fingers in the event this went awry.)


In less than 90 minutes the coffee carrier was screwed, glued and clamped. No blood was shed.

Twayne told me the glue had to sit for 24 hours and then “we” can sand and stain it the next morning. (I’m giggling at the memory.) I mentioned I was going to Raleigh for the weekend and you’d have thought I kidnapped his dog.

“Well isn’t that just perfect. Can “we” make this and then “she” leaves town…” he said.


I realized then I was in for a ration of smack talk and asked if he’d leave it be until I returned.

Instead, he taunted me with photos of his progress.

I reciprocated with a photo of my thoughts for a ‘logo’ of some sort.

He pointed out when I said I wanted to put a logo on it I’d said a STARBUCKS logo.

“I gave her ONE task and she sends doodles on napkins…”

This was a logo I created using the first letters of Twanye and my last names.

I returned from my trip in time to add the logo.

Mod podge and a Starbucks pastry bag … and voila!

The next day, I went back to Starbucks to wait for Dotsy to come in.

But the baristas said she’d been in on Sunday so she’d likely be in tomorrow.

So I asked her last name. And Googled her. And then called her. (Stalker, much?)

And reminded her we’d met last week.

The baristas dig it.

She invited me over.

Read: she said “Sure thing!” when I asked if I could pop over and drop off the new carrier since I was only .08 miles from her house.

C’mon. I have a hard time not telling people what’s in the package as they open presents… there’s no way I was going to wait another day.

So, this is Mr. and Mrs. H.

They celebrated their 64th wedding anniversary this past weekend.

I stayed and chatted for about 20 minutes.

Mr. H retired from accounting after serving several years in the Navy during WWII aboard a destroyer escort.

I told him, “Well, this coffee carrier was made for you by a couple of U.S. Marines, sir.”

“You know the Marine Corps is a department of the Navy, don’t you young lady?” he said.

“Yes’sir,” I said. “The Marines are the mens department.”

He guffawed. And then held up his hand for a fist bump.

Mrs. H cried and thanked me repeatedly.

I called Twayne at work so she could thank him, certain he’d hear the emotion in her voice.

He did. (And that’s all I’m allowed to say about that.)

Mrs. H fished the ‘dingy old box’ out from the bottom of the pantry where she ‘hides’ it and said she was going to display her new treasure right there on the cabinet.

She said “we” made her whole day.

After several hugs and riiiiight before my eyes started to leak, I skipped away from their front door.


Because “we” did something awesome.

For a stranger.

Try it. You might like it.

Final note: it’s best to enlist the help of a friend with the right supplies who isn’t selfish with their time and is freakishly meticulous should you decide on a ‘random act’ well beyond your skills set.

Also, know what your project partner likes to drink and be prepared for a ration of smack talk if you’re not bringing the right percentage of work to the table.


A Southern California native, Jennie spent her formative years in combat boots and taught elementary school between tours of active duty in the Marine Corps. An avid reader and distracted photographer, she took a break from Defense Public Affairs and is trying to decide what she wants to be when she grows up. Inevitably, it will involve talking to strangers, plenty of coffee, provoking smiles, and giving voice to inanimate objects to entertain her friends. She currently calls Northern Virginia home but answers to “Aunt Jennie” in half a dozen states and travels frequently to keep up with the “demands” of loving her friends’ children.