Although we live in a cynical age, random acts of kindness are still being performed on a daily basis. Indeed, for Canadian Glen Oliver, from Pickering, Ontario, doing a good deed has even become part of his own personal routine. However, his actions in paying for a stranger’s coffee back on July 18, 2017, later hit a nerve with his wife.
For years now, Glen has been settling the tab for the person behind him at his local Tim Hortons. It all started when the father of four saw someone looking for change, which spurred him on to pay for their order. Since then, he’s been buying coffee for strangers twice a week, whether that be at the drive-thru or in the store.
While bills have varied from the cost of a cup of coffee to around $10, Glen still asks counter staff to tell his beneficiary to “have a great day.” Speaking to Global News in December 2017, he said, “It’s the least I can do for some people. It’s like holding the door.”
With that in mind, July 18, 2017, was just another normal day for Glen, as he settled the cost of a coffee and a muffin at the drive-thru. “The nice man already paid for it and he said to have a great day,” the Tim Hortons’ employee told the lucky recipient, as they pulled in to pay for their order. Unbeknownst to the generous Canadian, though, his act subsequently had a profound effect on the customer.
Around four months later, Ian McMillan of The News Advertiser received an anonymous letter, which prompted him to write an opinion piece. “The other day, a letter crossed my desk that arrived by mail,” he wrote on November 9, 2017. “It was well written and typed, but the letter writer did not include a name.”
“Ordinarily, this type of letter would be spiked and sent to the recycling bin,” he continued. “But this one was different. The letter writer wrote about being in a bad place in July of this year, so bad in fact that they (I don’t know whether the author was a woman or man) intended to take their life. July 18 was going to be their last day.”
McMillan then went on to quote part of the unsigned letter. “I had planned to end it all at home in my own little ritual and explain my thoughts in a note for anyone who cares,” the missive read. However, before that, the person decided to visit Tim Hortons for a coffee and a muffin. Then, as they pulled in to pay for their order, they were greeted by Glen’s message.
“I wondered why someone would buy coffee for a stranger for no reason,” the letter continued. “Why me? Why today? If I was a religious sort I would take this as a sign. This random act of kindness was directed at me on this day for a purpose.”
Glen’s gesture left the person in tears when they got home, but as a result something in them fundamentally shifted. “I decided at that moment to change my plans for the day and do something nice for someone,” the letter read. “I ended up helping a neighbor take groceries out of her car and into the house.”
Since then, the anonymous writer has looked for ways to make people’s lives better every day. And it seems the correspondent’s actions have had a knock-on effect on their personal well-being, too. The incident in the summer had “enriched my life in more ways than I could’ve imagined,” they wrote.
With that in mind, the letter concluded with a special message for Glen and his act of kindness. “To the nice man in the SUV… thank you from the bottom of my heart, and know your kind gesture has truly saved a life,” the person added. “On July 18, 2017, I not only had a great day, I had the greatest day!”
Glen’s wife Linda was one of those to read McMillan’s heartfelt piece. Choking up at the story, she quickly approached her husband, newspaper in hand. “I was lying on the couch right beside her and I could hear her sniffling at what she was reading,” he told BuzzFeed Canada.
“She came over to me and said, ‘Read this,’” Glen continued. “By the end of it I was sniffling too.” Unsurprisingly, the father of four was “blown away” by the story – and for one particular reason: he was fairly sure the SUV driver was him.
A few weeks later Glen met up with McMillan at the Tim Hortons, as the journalist wrote a follow-up article to his opinion piece. But Glen took a modest view of his gesture earlier in the year. “It was just a coffee and a muffin,” the Canadian said, while posing for a picture outside the coffee shop. “You never know the impact it will have on someone until you hear their story.”
However, while Glen believes he’s not alone in being a Good Samaritan, he was still incredibly touched by the incident in the summer. “It means a lot,” he continued. “I’m getting more sensitive as I get older. [The gesture] probably happens all the time.”
Furthermore, Glen soon found himself being interviewed on Breakfast Television Toronto. He was asked if he ever expected to save a life with his actions. “No, not in a million years,” he responded. “You’re just doing something nice. It’s basically a Canadian thing to do, just make somebody’s day.”
“It’s exponential now, you know?” Glen then told Global News of his routine. “Like such a small, insignificant thing to most people just turned out to be… the planets align for somebody.” As the praise continued to pour in, though, the property manager felt the need to further explain the reasoning behind his kindness.
“I married the love of my life and I’ve got four great kids, so anything you can do to make someone’s life a little bit better, you do it,” Glen told BuzzFeed Canada. “We’re not rich but we have it all.” Following that, he left the anonymous writer a heartfelt message.
And his words were touching in their simplicity. “I’m glad you took it as a sign and decided to change your plans for the day,” Glen said. “It makes me feel like a million bucks to feel like I had some part in that.”
Among all the worrying things going on in the world, it’s easy to forget that many good deeds are being done. Moreover, the effect that these actions can have on society shouldn’t be underestimated. Glen Oliver can certainly attest to that, as can the stranger whose life he ultimately saved. After all, that anonymous person is living proof of the power of simple, everyday decency.