Saturday, May 17, 2008

Pay it forward...

Okay, this is a very different thing from paying down debt or paying in advance or any of those other things having to do with your financial life in these difficult economic times. This is a fun, feel-good thing.

I missed the movie in which this concept was examined, but the other day, out of the blue, I got to experience it first-hand. There I was in a long line at the Starbucks drive-through, already cranky as I went about my early morning chores at Home Depot, Wal-Mart and other big stores with endless opportunities for walking in a fruitless search for what I needed. When I finally arrived at the window to pay, an incredibly perky young clerk announced that the driver ahead of me had paid for my iced cafe mocha. An earlier driver had apparently started the morning's trend of paying it forward...paying the tab for the driver in the car behind. The clerk asked if I was willing to do the same and gave me the charge for the car behind me. It was a bit more than mine, but absolutely worth it to think of the surprise on that driver's face, the same surprise I'm sure was on mine. I was still smiling as I drove away.

Now those of you who've paid attention, know I tend to be a cynic. I'm also an ex-journalist. I question everything. And I'm sure on closer examination, I could find all sorts of reasons why this particular pay it forward experience is just some kind of gimmick. Somebody -- whoever started it that morning -- obviously paid for two orders, their own and the one for the car behind. Whoever turned up solo, when there was no line, probably got nothing free and the person at the end of the long line was the only one who never paid at all. Still, it gave the entire day a whole new spin for me. It had been fun, unexpected, nice. How many times do we ever come away from a long line feeling like that?

So, here's my challenge to you. Do something totally unexpected and nice for someone -- a friend, a total stranger, a family member, it doesn't matter. It just has to come from out of the blue and with the proviso that they pay it forward, that they do the same for someone else on the spur of the moment. Take a bouquet of flowers to a coworker, or some vegetables from your garden. Buy coffee for the person behind you in line.

The key to all of this is to get into the habit of being nice for no good reason, just because it might make someone feel better. I promise it will make you feel better, too. And wouldn't it be nice if we all spent five minutes every day on an act of kindness like this? It might even begin to make a dent in all the rudeness we encounter. Then again there might not be enough free cafe mochas in the world to accomplish that.

Sherryl Woods

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Blogger Kim said...

What a wonderful surprise to have your coffee paid for and what a great way to start the day. THAT would have definitely put me in one terrific mood. Years ago, after returning from a trip visiting the in-laws, a friend had brought over a casserole earlier that day knowing the fridge would be bare and I would be too tired to cook after the long drive home. Her thoughtfulness was such a wonderful surprise. Since then, I've tried to follow her example and do the same thing for others. I try and make sure I do this for friends and family members after they've been away from home for a chunk of time and while I know they enjoy the home cooked meal, I actually think I get more enjoyment out of doing it for them.

May 21, 2008 11:13 AM  
Blogger Sherryl said...

What a wonderful thing to do for friends, Kim! It reminds me of another story a friend recently passed along.

When her mother was in the hospital, a friend immediately rushed over to stay with her while tests were being run. She also delivered a meal to the house later.

In turn, when that friend's husband came home from a hospital stay, my friend recalled the earlier kindness and packed up a meal for the two of them and took it over.

These little acts of thoughtfulness and kindness really do have a lasting impact and encourage all of us to follow the Golden Rule -- do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Not a bad way to live.

May 23, 2008 5:23 AM  
Blogger Superauntk said...

I am a great beleiver in this concept. I especially when it comes to kids and elderly people. I live in a college town and often I see students counting there change to but a drink or something in a line before they can order. So i just tell the clerk to put it on my tab, but not tell them who paid for it.
I belive in the do unto others and they will do unto you. A good creed to live by

June 11, 2008 1:17 PM  
Blogger Lisa said...

My favorite thing to do is to give someone waiting at the bus stop in the pouring rain an umbrella. We have a lost and found that has so many umbrellas in it that periodically I will clean it out and put a couple of the extras in my trunk. When it rains (and in Florida that's almost every day) and I see someone standing at the bus stop, I will stop and grab one, hand it to them and watch their faces light up! It's great!

July 8, 2008 8:44 AM  
Blogger Kim said...

SuperauntK and Lisa--what GREAT ways to pay it forward. I live in the wonderful (but rainy) Pacific Northwest so I can so appreciate the gift of an umbrella!! LOL

July 8, 2008 7:35 PM  

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