Today I want to talk about paying it forward. Okay, I heard the collective groans out there, but stick with me. Don’t I always take you on a little journey that sometimes goes around my hand to get to my thumb just to make a point?
We’ve all heard the term ‘paying it forward.’ You hear about it happening a lot at Starbucks. I’m not sure why it happens so often there, maybe it’s because Starbucks is a coffee-type place, and for some reason, folks need their coffee in order to keep from killing people. I don’t know, but that is a possibility. Before I continue, let me clarify: Starbucks is not a coffee shop. You see, coffee shops sell, well, coffee. I don’t know what that stuff is that Starbucks sells, and just because they use coffee in a lot of it does not make the items they sell actual coffee. My blog. My two cents.
At any rate, you often hear that people will pay for the frappe-crappo-cino-latte-vanillo-grande-caramello-drink-o for the car behind them. Then the next person does the same and so on and so on until someone finally says, ‘Cool, I get a free frappe-crappo-cino-latte-vanillo-grande-caramello-drink-o.’ Most people don’t want to be the one who breaks that chain, but there are those who will. I’m not sure if that’s a good for you or a shame on you.
Paying it forward is simply you do something nice for someone without wanting anything in return, and hopefully, that person will do the same for someone else, and so on and so on. In the end, paying it forward is kind of like rumors—they come back around, and usually not in the same manner as when it started. In the case of rumors, that sucks. In the case of paying it forward, well, it’s often a good thing.
So often in today’s society, paying it forward or just being kind to one another, isn’t such a popular concept. It’s all about me, me, me, me, and giving someone money or buying something for a total stranger is considered crazy and somewhat stupid by many folks.
Not one person, at least.
Let me tell you a story real quickly:
I was perusing Facebook this morning. Yeah, that great worldwide killer of time. I wasn’t feeling all that well and was debating on going back to bed. After all, it wasn’t even seven a.m. at this point and I really didn’t need to get up earlier than eight. I was about to click off when I saw a post from an author friend of mine. The post was about his wife, Linda.
Let’s break this up or we’re going to have one really long paragraph here.
Linda had been at the Wally World (Wal-Mart, for those who don’t know that term) and she overheard a young couple talking about wanting to buy their son a kiddie pool. It wasn’t one of those ginormous fifteen foot in circumference, four feet deep ones. No, it was your standard plastic kiddie pool with little fish designs on it.
The pool was eighteen dollars and the young couple couldn’t afford it. Having been a young couple at one time with my wife, Cate, and wanting to buy something for my children and not being able to, it’s a bad feeling. As the parent, you feel guilty and sad and like a bad parent who needs to be put in the corner or spanked (no, not that type of spanking). It sucks.
So what did Linda do? She walked off, ignoring them.
No. No. I’m just kidding.
Linda pulled out a twenty dollar bill and gave it to them and told the young couple, and I quote, “Get the pool for your son.”
Wait, it gets better. You see, their son was with them, and the mother was holding another child. So, the son saw this act of kindness. They thanked her profusely and Linda watched as they went and paid for the pool.
She cried as she told her husband this story.
Okay, did you picture any of that? Can you see the young couple? They wanted to do something for their son, but they couldn’t. I can see the kid—probably somewhere between the ages of two and five, maybe six, his eyes turned down and sad. I can almost hear his thoughts. Summer’s coming, Ma, and all we got is an old radio flyer wagon for a pool. Or something like that.
I can hear the man’s voice as he says, ‘We can’t afford it.’
I can almost hear the collective of three hearts breaking after that statement. I can almost feel the boy’s tears, and probably the momma’s, too.
But then, out of nowhere, like a knight in shiny armor on a white steed, a woman walked up holding the magical green paper that makes everyone happy. Okay, that was a little too much, but you get the picture. Linda walked up. Let’s just assume Linda is like any other woman, doing her shopping, minding her own business when she overheard this conversation. Instead of walking off, she showed compassion to the young couple, and more importantly, for the young boy. She gave them the money to buy the pool. No, she didn’t give them eighteen dollars, but a full twenty, which would cover the taxes as well.
This woman—Linda—gave money to total strangers so they could do something for their kid. Here’s something to think about: Obviously, the young couple were overjoyed at the sudden act of kindness. They were probably overwhelmed a little. The boy was probably excited—he was going to get his pool and not have to play in a rusty old radio flyer wagon. Okay, sorry—flashback, 1978. There’s no rusty radio flyer wagon.
Now, as much as Linda touched the lives of three—possibly four—members of a family, she also touched her own life. What? How? Simple: she cried when she told the story. Her own compassion moved her in such a way it made her cry. Why? She was probably happier than the parents and the child combined. Seeing their joy probably lifted her heart more than her giving that money to them lifted theirs.
I’ve learned that by doing things like what Linda did it can have a positive impact on others, but it also can have a positive impact on you. It can be uplifting for the person doing the giving. It can change how you feel about life and people and money and things that we take for granted, like how mindlessly we blow twenty bucks. We don’t think about it, we just do it. I don’t have a lot of money. I barely get from paycheck to paycheck, but guess what? I’ve blown more than twenty bucks at a time without thinking about it. I’m sure many of you have, as well. There’s nothing wrong with that. You earned the money, you get to spend it, right? Absolutely.
Linda paid it forward. Do you think she will ever get that money back? I don’t. And I don’t think she cares if she does, either. What she received in return was the joy of seeing how much happiness her compassionate deed brought to that young family. And there is nothing like that feeling. Having done something similar, I can honestly say the joy of seeing someone’s face light up and hope surface in a set of eyes, it’s a better rush than any drug and it last longer because it hits you right in the heart—and that’s where it matters.
Here’s the clincher: Linda wasn’t going to tell anyone else. She was going to let her good deed be known to her husband and no one else. Not only was she compassionate, she was humble. She didn’t shout to the world, ‘hey, look what I’ve done.’ No, she whispered it to her husband and she cried while doing so.
Pay it forward. It isn’t all that hard.
I’m not going to give the name of the writer. I don’t think that is necessary. But, he and I chatted on Facebook briefly about this today and he was gracious enough to let me use this story for this particular piece. I learned a lot about him and his wife in that brief conversation, and in the post that he shared with the world. They’re my type of people.
I mentioned he is an author, didn’t I? Yup, right there and there and, yup, there, as well. I like to get to know writers before I purchase anything from them. I like to get to know if they are cool or jerks just out for a buck. I don’t want to support writers who are jerks. It’s just that simple. But this dude and his wife are not jerks. So, now…now I want to purchase one of his books to see if I like his style. He has several books to choose from, so when I head over to Amazon I will have to choose carefully. No, I’m not paying it forward by doing so. I’m doing what I always do: buy books from someone I would hang out with if we knew each other in person, from someone who would do the right thing when the right thing needs to be done. My type of people.
Before I go, I want to say one more thing: Thank you, Linda, for being a light in that family’s life, and an inspiration to others.
Until we meet again, my friends, be kind to one another.