Kai was out of town at a conference and during the noontime break he dashed off in search of a nearby eatery where he could find a quick lunch. He found a Chipotle and hurried into the restaurant.
Maybe it was his haste in tandem with some confusing ambiguity as to exactly where the customer line ended, but Kai inadvertently jumped in front of two guys who by rights were ahead of him in line. And these guys let Kai know of his transgression in no uncertain terms.
So Kai apologized and, duly humbled, took his place at the end of the line behind the two guys.
The line moved along, and when it was the turn of of the guy ahead of Kai to pay for his food and the food of his friend, Kai saw the man reach into one pocket, then the other, then pat both back pockets. Kai recognized the painful scenario of a man who's hit with the awful realization that he's left his wallet at home.
"Hey, no problem, I got it," said Kai, pulling out his own wallet and quickly moving to the men's rescue.
At first the men refused Kai's offer, but finding themselves between the rock of having no money to pay for their purchase and the hard place of having to accept charity from some guy they'd just put in his place, opted for the least embarrassing alternative. Duly humbled, they accepted Kai's intercession.
Now, the store manager was standing at the check-out counter and apparently had caught the whole episode between Kai and the two guys, and when it was time for Kai to pay for his food the manager waved him through.
"Go ahead, you're good," said the manager to Kai.
(I've since pondered the manager's choice of words to Kai. By "you're good" did the manager merely mean to indicate that Kai did not need to pay? Or was he also offering, perhaps without even realizing it, an observation on Kai's character?)
So, for his good deed Kai was rewarded with a free burrito bowl.
But that's not the end of the story.
While Kai was still sitting in the Chipotle finishing his lunch the guy who'd been caught without his wallet returned to the restaurant with a checkbook in his hand. He hurried over to Kai's table and asked Kai what he owed him. Kai told him not to worry about it. The man tried again to repay his debt but Kai assured the man that he, too, was good.
So the man left, and Kai finished the story with the comment that he wasn't sure how the man felt about having had to accept a free lunch from Kai.
As for me, I can see several themes running through this parable: Humility. Empathy. Our common human vulnerabilities. The lesson in the words of the Joan Baez song Forever Young: "May you always do for others and let others do for you". But perhaps the most important lesson of the story is this: Always be patient with and nice to the people in your personal space; you never know when you might need them to help you out of a pickle. 8)