Paying It Back And Paying It Forward

, , , , | Hopeless | April 28, 2018

(It’s just before Christmas, and I am in a particularly bad spot. I can’t pay my bills, and every penny counts in trying to get by. As I am walking into work one day, a man calls across the street to me.)

Man: “Hey! Hey, miss! Do you have a second?”

Me: *looking around, confused* “Um, sure. What do you need?”

Man: “I’m going to be honest with you here. I just got out of jail, and I can’t find work. I have no money, and I just need a little something for gas if you can spare it.”

Me: “I’m really sorry, but I don’t even have cash for the tolls to get home right now. I can’t really help you out.”

(The man stares at me for a moment, and I am getting worried because I think he’ll be upset. Then, he smiles the most knowing smile I’ve ever seen and reaches into his jacket to pull out a couple singles.)

Man: “Here. You take this for the tolls to get home. Merry Christmas, and I hope things work out for you.”

(The entire way home that day I cry my eyes out, both overwhelmed by his kindness and upset at myself for not getting the chance to thank him. A few months later, I am doing much better, and I happen to see that same man walking down the street.)

Me: “Sir! Sir, do you have a second?”

Man: “Sure, young lady. What can I help you with?”

Me: “A while ago, you helped me out when I had absolutely nothing. I haven’t forgotten what you did for me, and I’ve kept some money in my purse in case I ever saw you again. Here. I want you to have this.”

Man: “I’m glad that I could help you when you needed it, but I can’t take that from you. I’ve managed to find a job, and I’m able to pay for my bills and my gas. I wouldn’t dream of taking what I don’t need. You go ahead and keep that in your purse for the next person you see who doesn’t have money for the tolls to get home.”

(Once again, he gave me the warmest smile I have ever seen, and he walked off. I still think about that man and the lessons he taught me. Even writing this now makes me tear up and be reminded that truly good people do exist in the world.)

Honesty Pays, Absolute Honesty Pays Absolutely

, , , , , | Working | April 24, 2018

(My dad gives me some cash he owes me, so my partner and I decide to buy dinner from a popular fast food place.)

Colleague: “That’s £18.75, please.”

(I hand her the £20 note I have. She hands me £10.25 back in change, instead of £1.25. This meal is a rare treat for my partner and me, as we don’t earn much. So, we falter for a moment as we both decide whether to call out her mistake. Having worked retail, though, I know how annoying it is to have the till down by even the smallest amount of money.)

Me: *to [Colleague #2] handing us our food* “Excuse me, but your colleague gave me a £10 note instead of a £1.”

(He blinked and got his colleague to open the till. She was extremely thankful, and [Colleague #2] gave us an extra box of chicken as a gesture to say thank you. Honesty pays!)

Pay Out, Or You’ll Pay In No Staff

, , , , | Working | April 23, 2018

(I work at a well-known non-profit organization as a camp counsellor and lifeguard. When I had just gotten my lifeguarding qualifications, I wanted a job that was flexible and gave me good hours. This place is perfect in that regard, BUT they only pay minimum wage. Lifeguards usually make more because of the training we receive and the responsibility. However, our wage is, at its highest, $11 an hour — and that is only this year. The way it balances out is that we are able to work more hours, and we get our recertifications paid for. Unfortunately, the way lifeguards are treated at this place has gone downhill over the past couple of years. It all starts when we have staff training and we are told we will have a new policy. This is the tail end of the presentation.)

Upper Management: “…so, in conclusion, we have to keep you as part-time employees because if you are full-time, we have to pay more money than what we have in the budget. As a result, nobody can work over 29.5 hours a week.”

(Since a lot of us are still in high school and don’t want that many hours, it doesn’t seem like a big deal. I realize how limiting it is when another pool with the same organization desperately needs lifeguards. I decide to try and help out, thinking I can get more hours. They are grateful for the help, until we all learn I can’t work over 29.5 hours between both pools. This means that I can’t help them, even though they really need the help. It also gets worse when I try to work my usual job at a summer camp, and maintain weekend hours at the pool.)

Boss: “I just got word from human resources. You can’t work at the summer camp and get hours for the pool. They are worried you’ll go over and they will have to pay you overtime.”

Me: “What? But the summer camp job is a separate department. Plus, I’m only working 35 hours, and then I have my five-hour shift on Saturday.”

Boss: “They said it doesn’t matter. It’s the same company, so you can’t work for both. Even when I told them I desperately need you on that Saturday shift, they said you would work two extra hours and that’s it.”

Me: “I’m sorry, but that’s not worth it for me to come in for two hours.”

Boss: “I figured as much.”

(Things get worse further along when we have another meeting.)

Upper Management: “…due to this change, we can no longer cover your recertification courses 100%. You will have to pay first, and then we will reimburse four hours pay for the course.”

Me: “So, are you increasing our pay?”

Upper Management: “No, pay is fixed at the current rate.”

Me: “How is that fair? Our rate is the way is it because you pay for our recertifications. Now you’re taking that away and not adjusting that?”

Upper Management: “No, you are still getting covered; we are just doing it differently. You pay first and you write in the hours for your course. Then, when it all works out, you’ll still be covered for almost the full amount.”

Me: “It actually doesn’t work out that way. You don’t want us working over 29 hours, nor will you pay us more than four hours. Now a typical lifeguarding recert is $50 to $60. I am making $11 an hour, so I will get paid only $44 for that time served.”

Upper Management: “Well, we did say not 100%, but it’s close—”

Me: “That is not including my standard first-aid I have to recertify, which requires me to run a full course every other year. That can cost almost $200. Or my instructor’s recertification. Furthermore, will you pay us to take more advance lifeguarding courses?”

Upper Management: “We will only do the four hours’ pay for recertifications.”

(Long story short, it didn’t balance out and they never increased our pay. I quit soon after and learned that the organization is having trouble maintaining lifeguards. Gee, I wonder why?)

Charity Starts At Home, A Dozen Times

, , , , | Hopeless | April 21, 2018

(I am working for Concern, a very well-known charity in Ireland that focuses on famine relief and aid for developing countries. I go from door to door, asking people to sign up for a small monthly donation. It’s quite a gruelling job; I have a list of a hundred doors to knock on in a day, and am only expected to sign up two or three people. The rest will all be no-answers or refusals, sometimes very unpleasant refusals. I’m at the end of a long, tiring day of knocking on doors and giving my pitch over and over. I genuinely care about the work our charity does, but when you’ve said a thing dozens of times in a day it’s hard not to sound like a robot, and though I never resent a simple refusal, some people really are shockingly rude about it. I approach one of the last houses on my round, trying to pluck up my energy, and knock on the door. A slightly scruffy-looking young man in his late twenties opens the door and I start my spiel. He holds up his hand to stop me and I’m expecting a refusal, just hoping he’ll be polite and won’t shout at me.)

Guy: “Yeah, it’s okay. I’ve been expecting you guys; I saw you going around the neighbourhood earlier. Come on in.”

(Surprised, I follow him into his kitchen.)

Guy: “Here, sit down and show me how to sign up. Oh, do you want a beer?”

Me: “I… uh… Thank you so much, but I don’t think I’m allowed to drink beer while I’m working. So, you’d… like to sign up?”

Guy: “Yeah, sure. I know about what your charity does already. How much would you like?”

Me: *not believing how easy this is* “Well, the minimum is €11 a month, but if you could manage to make it €21 a month or over, the charity gets an extra tax break from the government, which would increase the value of your donation to us.”

Guy: “Let’s round it up to €25 a month, then.”

Me: “Wow, thank you!”

(I start walking him through the donation forms.)

Me: “You know, I’ve never actually met anyone who had already decided to sign up before I came to their door!”

Guy: *nonchalantly* “Yeah, well, I’m already signed up to twelve others, so…”

Me: “Twelve?! I have to ask, is this okay for you financially? We don’t want anyone to feel pressured to do more than they can.”

Guy: “Don’t worry; it’s no problem. I came into quite a lot of money recently, and I’ve enjoyed donating to charities ever since. I like to spread it around to lots of different organizations rather than giving a lump to just one, you know?”

(We finish up the forms and I go to leave, thanking him profusely all the time. He caps everything by saying:)

Guy: “No, thank you for coming around today. I might have forgotten to include your charity if you hadn’t come to the door. Keep up the good work.”

(I was so touched I nearly cried. I hope that if I ever get rich, I’ll enjoy generosity as much as that guy did. For now, I just do what I can, and try to remember how much pleasure there can be in giving.)

Pay It Forward Meets The Never-Ending Story

, , , , , , | Hopeless | April 13, 2018

It was a few days before Christmas and I was dining at a popular barbecue restaurant with my family. We are not rich or even well-to-do, but not struggling, and I remember when, not so long ago, eating out was an oddity because we could barely afford even basic necessities. In my wallet, I had leftover spending money from a trip, and on a whim (and because it makes me feel good to be able to share) I gave $100 to the cashier and told her to use it to pay for others’ meals as they came through the line and to use her discretion about who she helped.

A few days ago, I had occasion to eat again at that restaurant and, as I was about to leave, the same cashier arrived for her shift and recognized me as the person who had left the money. She asked my name and put it on a note to the staff for a free meal, even after I protested that I had no expectations of any recognition. She said it wasn’t so much because of the original deed but because the money had lasted almost two days; nearly everyone she offered to pay for ended up paying it forward to the next person, so it snowballed, and I was the catalyst that got it all rolling!

I am humbled, as I’d not even thought of the possibility of that happening. I guess there are quite a few people who just need a little nudge to remember to share. Thank you to all the good-hearted people who participated! I’ve paid for a meal or two on occasion, paid the difference when someone was short for their groceries, etc. All I desire is to help a few people have a good day, but it seems I helped a whole lot more than I expected!

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