Pay It Forward

I sincerely hope that those who started – and continued to inspire – the phenomenon of ‘pay it forward’ or ‘pass it on’ are richly blessed beyond what is imaginable.

I would have never understood the significance had it not been through the absolute horrifical mayhem of my life.

I would have never understood how I could participate in the phenomenon of pay it forward unless I would have paid attention to the stories of how others acted on the idea.

For instance, the idea to pay for Starbucks coffee for one or more cars behind me; paying for the lay-aways waiting for Christmas at Target; the young guy’s dying wish to give random waitresses $100 throughout the U.S.; stories of people unable to go to work because they don’t have any gas…

This afternoon, I was headed home and desperately wanted a canned Starbucks coffee. My body hates it so I stuffed my mouth with M&Ms instead.

I was behind a woman in line at the cash register. She had forgotten her credit card in the car. She was going to have to go to her card to find it. “I’ll get it,” I said. “All this?” she asked.

The balance came to $7.58 or so. I swiped my card to pay for her items.  The woman said “I’ll have to pass it on.”

The cashier said, “I’m really glad I could witness something like that. I’ve seen 1 or 2 dollars, but not a substantial amount like that.” Just a bit later, she said, “May good things come your way.” In my mind I said “I need that.” But, I just smiled and said “thank you.” That wasn’t my point. My point was that I understood. Fully. 100% in my own way.

$7.58 could mean the same as $0.25 to one person, $200 to another and $1,000 to yet another depending on circumstances, point of view, and perceptions of what is going on in their bank account.

It reminds me of last Christmas. There was a woman who had just gotten out of the hospital from pneumonia. Later I noticed her boyfriend was sitting in the car while she stood in line then attempted to fill her tank in the cold weather.

While she was standing in line to pre-pay for gas, I offered to fill her tank. I told her to fill her tank to the top.  She came to me freaked out and said “It came to $30. Is that okay? I was only going to put $2 in it. Are you sure it’s okay?” I reassured her that it was perfectly fine. I thought she had completely filled the tank, but it dawned on me – after talking with another friend – that she had freaked and stopped.  She had not completely filled her tank because she felt it was too much money. To her, $30 was the same as $30 million.

Now, I’m pretty sure the attendant filled up additional tanks because my card read $70 on gas. It’s really not a big deal to me, but it could mean the world of difference to someone else: freedom, sanity, family time… the ability to go to medical appointments, shopping, and/or work…

The only thing the woman could offer was for me to go to church with her. That was all she could give back, but she so badly wanted to pay me back in that one way she knew how.

Because of past experiences, I know exactly how she feels. Not to the same degree as I did not have an infant as she did, nor did I have exact circumstances, but I understand how $1 can be the same as $100 – or even $1000 – to one person and a piece of paper to another.

How are you going to pay it forward today? How can you give $25, $50, $100, $1 million… (literally or figuratively) in a way that feels literal to the person you are giving to?

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2 thoughts on “Pay It Forward

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