COLUMBIA — Rachel Adams was staffing the drive-thru window Wednesday morning at the Starbucks on East Broadway when she witnessed a 10-car act of kindness.
Adams said a customer she didn't recognize paid for the purchases of the next 10 drivers.
"I asked them if there was anything they wanted me to tell them, and they answered, 'Just happy holidays,'" Adams said. She's seen this kind of thing before but never for a string of cars that long.
It might have been a gesture of the holiday season, or it might be that person's routine practice of generosity.
It also might have been prompted by NBC news broadcaster Ann Curry's call for acts of kindness in memory of the children shot to death Friday at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut.
"Imagine if we all committed to 20 acts of kindness for each child lost in Newtown? I'm in. RT #20Acts if YOU R in," Curry tweeted to her more than a million followers late Sunday morning.
That call to kindness evolved to include the six adults killed at the school. Hashtags are #20Acts, #26Acts and #27Acts — the last reflecting gunman Adam Lanza's mother, Nancy Lanza, who was killed at her home before the school shootings.
Alyson Peipert of Columbia was drawn to Curry’s mission. Peipert's first act occurred Tuesday when she donated two five-packs of macaroni and cheese, two family-size tomato soups, two family-size chicken noodle soups and six large cans of canned vegetables to the Food Bank for Central and Northeast Missouri.
"It struck a chord with me," Peipert said. "Giving back is so personal. With all these shootings you see and so much bad in the media, giving back restores faith in humanity."
On Wednesday, she committed her second act by donating $100 to the United Way of Western Connecticut.
Peipert works as a biotech sales specialist at MedImmune in mid-Missouri. The Maryland company has pledged to match all donations made by its employees on behalf of the Sandy Hook victims, she said.
On Friday, once she gets paid, Peipert plans to pay off someone’s layaway account at Walmart. She won’t know whose account it will be — and that’s OK with her, she said.
"I feel so fortunate in my life," she said. "I’m so blessed, and if I’m in a position to give back, then I’ll do it."
Kacey Marshall of Columbia also shared her act Tuesday on Twitter: "Let a girl behind me in line @WalMart with only 1 item go in front of me. 1 down, 25 to go. Have some catching up 2 do. @AnnCurry #26acts"
Marshall said via Twitter on Wednesday that she has "no specific plans, but will act when the opportunity presents itself."
On Wednesday, David Tye and Mike Misslin, who are homeless, hadn't heard about Curry's campaign. But they said they have been on the receiving and giving ends of generosity. Tye said he once asked for change and was given $100.
"There are some days when we go to bed hungry and some days we have enough," Tye said. "When we have excess, we give it to other homeless people."
Adams, a single mother who supports her household on what she makes at Starbucks, recalled that once when she was $20 short in the grocery line, the man in line behind her paid the balance.
"We’re a small, close-knit community here," Adams said. "It’s truly incredible. I think people are just genuinely nice here."
You can share your acts of kindness — or ones that you witness — with us so we can publish them by commenting below, calling the newsroom at 573-882-5720, emailing submissions@ColumbiaMissourian.com, posting on our Facebook wall or tweeting to @CoMiss0urian.
Missourian reporter Robert Swain contributed to this article.
Supervising editor is Elizabeth Brixey.