the edge of paying it forward

Out There on the Edge of Everything®…

On Sunday mornings I typically go to a local lake for a five mile run.  After my run I go through the drive through at a local Starbucks to get a cup of post run coffee.

The Starbucks I go to, for some reason, is one in which people routinely “pay it forward” in a chain for the person behind them on Sunday mornings.  The baristas always inform us if the pay it forward chain is in play and what number we are in the chain.

This past Sunday, I was the 12th person in the chain.  I always pay it forward to keep the chain going even though I only order a black coffee that costs just a little over $2.00 and have paid as much as $20.00+ for another person’s order.

This past Sunday, I paid if forward $12.69 at Starbucks.

As the drive through line was long, I was still at the ordering position and was listening as the baristas were very excited about the current pay it forward chain.

Later in the day I went grocery shopping for my elderly mother.  As I was standing in the checkout line, there was an older man who had just finished checking out.  All he had in his cart was a large bag of dog food.

There was a couple with 3 small children that was directly in front of me.  They looked to be 20-something age couple.  They had a large grocery order and looked like they were food shopping for the week.  The husband took the 3 kids and sat on a bench near the check-out line.  The wife was taking the groceries out of the cart and placing them on the checkout belt.

The guy with the dog food in his cart kept hovering around and I was curious why.

When the wife finished, the total for the young families groceries was $199.28.  She took out a public assistance card to pay for the groceries.

The guy with the dog food in his cart immediately stepped forward and asked the couple if he could pay for their groceries.

The couple, their kids, the cashier and myself were all shocked.

At first the wife politely said no.  However the guy with the dog food was persistent and she asked him, “Why?”

He said that it was his day to give back.

The guy with the bag of dog food in his cart paid it forward a total of $199.28 for a young couples groceries, a couple he did not know.

As I listened to the conversation it turns out the husband was out of work and the wife was supporting the family with a part-time job.

However, instead of the husband just saying thank you and walking away, he try to pay it forward as well.  He asked the guy with dog food in his cart if his car needed washing, his grass needed cutting or is he could help with him with any home repairs.

The guy with the dog food in his cart said “no,” to all the husband’s pay it forward attempts.

The guy with the dog food in his cart and the couple quietly went their separate ways as the cashier finished my grocery order.

Since I had heard several different pay it forward related conversations, it made me think about something.

My friend and best-selling author Colette Baron-Reid calls overhearing such conversations a “cleon.”  According to Colette, a cleon is a historical name for a spontaneous communication delivered to a listener pointing the way to a higher good.

So it was very clear to me what I was going to write about this week.

What is your edge of paying it forward?

So how can you help pay it forward in your own life?  Here are at least three ways:

  1.  Start your own pay it forward smile chain or handshake chain.

Find a person that looks like they are having a bad day.  Smile at them and acknowledge them.  Hold out your hand for a high-five or a handshake. Ask them to pay it forward by smiling at someone they meet on the street and try to keep the chain going.  Find a person that looks like they are having a good day and do the same thing.

  1.  Start your own pay it forward courtesy chain.

The next time you enter or leave a building or an elevator, hold the door for someone and ask the person to pay it forward the next time they enter or leave a building or elevator. Give up your seat on the bus or the train.  Ask the person who sits down to pay it forward to another person that same day. If you are driving in a parking lot, give up a closer parking spot to someone who really needs it and ask they driver to pay it forward the next time they need to park.  I frequently do this with my mom.  She has a handicap placard issued by the state as the result of an accident that makes it difficult for her to walk.  So when I take her shopping, we can legitimately park in a handicap spot. However, instead, I drop her off at the door and park in a regular spot, leaving the handicap spot for someone who really needs it.  I then walk back to the regular spot and pick my mom up at the door.

  1. Start your own pay it forward monetary chain.

The next time you are in line at a coffee shop or a fast food place, offer to pay for the next person in line.  Tell the cashier what you are doing and ask the cashier to ask the next person in line if they are willing to keep the pay it forward chain going.  Buy a few grocery items and take them to your local food depository or homeless shelter.  I was at a continuing education class last week in which the instructor asked everybody to bring a couple of food items from a list for the local food depository. The instructor indicated he would make a monetary donation of an amount equal to the total dollar amount of food donated.  I brought three forty-ounce jars of peanut butter and six five-packs of mac and cheese, which were on the food depository list of desired items  The food depository worker indicated that just one forty-ounce jar could help feed a family of three for about a week.  I am telling you what I bought for the class simply because a small pay it forward contribution can go a very long way when someone has nothing at all to eat.  If you are really committed to paying it forward, buy someone’s groceries like the guy with the dog food in his cart.

Even the smallest gesture or effort can make a priceless difference to someone in ways you will never know or understand.

Tell me how you paid it forward with the hashtag: #payitforward @SLeavich on Twitter this week.

Out There on the Edge of Everything®…

Stephen Lesavich, PhD

Co-author of the award-winning and best-selling book:  The Plastic Effect:  How Urban Legends Influence the Use and Misuse of Credit Cards.

Regular columnist: Positive Impact Magazine

Follow Stephen Lesavich, PhD on Twitter: @SLesavich

Copyright © 2016, by Stephen Lesavich, PhD.  All rights reserved.

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