How an Orange Soda Changed my World View

You never know how your actions will affect someone.  Here’s something that happened to me over 33 years ago that I still remember.  A simple act of kindness from a stranger changed my view of the world.

Across the Country by Bicycle

In the summer of 1983 my brother and I set off on a great adventure to ride our bicycles across the United States.  It was a trip that would take us 64 days to complete and cover over 4,900 miles from the Pacific Coast of Oregon to the Atlantic Coast of Virginia.

Part of the reason for doing it was of course the adventure of it all.  But I think other reasons included a desire to assert our independence, to test ourselves, and to learn more about the world and our place in it.

One little part of the story happened on the 2nd of July, day 36.  We were crossing South Dakota on Interstate 90.  It was around lunch time.  It was boiling hot, and we had been battling headwinds all morning.  Progress had been slow as we labored up and down the rolling countryside.  South Dakota is not as flat as you might think.

We were on yet another of those long slow climbs.  There wasn’t much traffic, but at one point an old  RV rolls by.  It was like many others that had passed.  But I noticed that about a mile up ahead as it topped the rise, it pulled over onto the shoulder and parked.

It probably took us five or six sweltering minutes to get to the top where it had stopped.  A gentleman and his wife got out and flagged us down.

A Surprise Act of Kindness

The man said, “It’s a hot day and it looks like you boys have been riding for a long while, so we thought you might like to have a cold soda and some sandwiches we made for you.”

They put fresh ham and cheese sandwiches in our hands and pulled orange sodas from a cooler.

At that moment, that was the most amazing thing we could have heard.  The sandwiches were wonderful, and the ice cold Fanta was absolutely heavenly.  I held the cool can to my forehead before chugging it down.  We stood in the shade of their RV and chatted for a while, and then they were on their way.

The whole thing lasted maybe 10 minutes.  But for the rest of the day, our morale was a little higher, we rode a little easier.

Thirty days later, we completed our cross-country trip.  We were leaner, confident, and maybe a little wiser about who we were and what we were capable of.

And if you asked me what one of the main things I learned on the trip was, it is this:  People are generally pretty good.

When it comes down to it, people are generally pretty good. Click To Tweet

We came to that conclusion after the orange soda incident and dozens of others like it that we experienced almost every day along the way.

The Takeaway

You know, that was over 33 years ago but I still remember it clearly.  Somebody we didn’t know took the time to do something nice, and help us along our way on a hot July day in South Dakota.

I’m sure they don’t remember it now but it had a huge impact on us.  Now everyone I meet, I start with the idea that they are probably a pretty good person, too.

What’s the takeaway?  When you see an opportunity to do something nice for someone, don’t hesitate to help out.  You never know what impact it will have.  You could be changing someone’s view of the world, and making it a better place.

Don't hesitate to help someone; you never know the impact you may have. Click To Tweet

And to that husband and wife traveling the country in their RV:  Thank you again!  May God bless your journeys wherever they take you.

Lead On!

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About the Author: Ken Downer
Ken Downer - Founder RapidStart Leadership

Ken served for 26 years in the Infantry, retiring as a Colonel.  From leading patrols in the Korean DMZ, to parachuting into the jungles of Panama, to commanding a remote outpost on the Iran-Iraq border, he has learned a lot about leadership, and has a passion for sharing that knowledge with others.  Look for his weekly posts, check out his online courses, subscribe below, or simply connect, he loves to talk about this stuff.

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