I must be the luckiest guy in the world. For years, I’ve read about pay-it-forward stories happening at restaurants and drive-thrus. Well, it happened to me for the second time. (The first time was at Taco Bell, a few years ago. At the time, I shared my experience here.) I was at Starbucks buying breakfast sandwiches for my elderly parents (in their 70s) on Tuesday morning and (surprise!) the family ahead of me in the drive-thru lane paid for them. It seems like such a small gesture, but I can tell you the impact is profound. In the moment the barista told me my tab was covered, I felt shocked, special and grateful. Unfortunately, it seems we no longer expect others to be kind, generous or thoughtful. The family pulled away so quickly. There was no chance to honk my horn or tap on the driver’s window to share my gratitude. They had no idea about my gender, race, political beliefs, religion or financial situation. They simply wanted to make a stranger’s day a little brighter. The act was not small by any means, especially for a bargain hunter like me. The $10 they saved me allows me to put more gas in the car, buy more groceries or add to my savings account. Every action has a reaction.
The experience reminded me about the importance of giving back, no matter how small. For me, I keep a stash of snacks in a tote bag in the backseat of my car, so, whenever I see someone holding a “Need Help” sign, I can hand them a bag of nuts, crackers, dried fruit or granola bars. (I’m still a “cheapskate”! Everything in the bag I get for pennies on the dollar because of coupons and sale prices/clearance shelves. The $10 the family saved me I will put toward finding more snacks for my “give back tote.”)
I would love to hand out $5 or $10 bills, but I struggle with whether or not it’s really helpful. I feel better about handing out food, knowing the money is better spent (and wisely.) Plus, the food is something they truly need. (If you can’t tell by now, I’m a big softie — so I often give one person a little care package of several items. If anything, I figure they will have “meals” for a day or two.)
We are so quick to judge others, myself included — often negatively. When in reality, we have no idea about another’s journey. (Can we all just agree, life is not easy for anyone? Everyone has difficulties to overcome. Yes, some are bigger than others. However, when it’s happening to you, it can be overwhelming.) I know my journey has, at times, been met with challenges, whether it has been family drama, losing a job, dealing with unexpected bills, health concerns or those nagging self-esteem issues. (I’m not alone, right?)
No one is perfect, but we’re all so fearful of showing any vulnerability or weakness. (You never see anyone tweeting or posting about their low moments — only the highlights. It gives the false impression that everyone else is happier than you and living a much better life. It’s one of the reasons I don’t have a Facebook page and probably never will. I don’t have much patience for anything inauthentic or fake. Did I mention I despise reality TV?) Yet, there is so much power and strength in knowing you’re not alone. Don’t we all hope that, if we or a loved one ever needed help, there would be unconditional compassion from others?
With the state we’re in today, I hope we can all find any opportunity (big and small) to be kind to one another, individually and as a community. I, for one, will keep trying to pay-it-forward, whenever I can. Here’s an idea: “Random Acts of Cheapness” — sharing coupons with strangers at the check-out stand!
Have you ever had a pay-it-forward experience — either as the recipient or, better yet, as the giver?
I look forward to our next chat. And, remember, there’s always a deal, you just need to look for it. :-)