Pay It Forward Becomes Fling It Backward

, , , , , | Right | July 8, 2019

(I work at a place where it’s common for customers to pay for the person behind them in the drive-thru. I help a customer who intended to pay only for her $4 drink, but upon hearing that the customer in front of her had paid it, insisted on paying for the $11 total behind her. The customers with that total pull up, and I notice they are all teenage girls.)

Me: “Actually, guys, the lady in front of you paid for your order!”

Driver: “What? Why?”

Me: “It’s kind of a pay-it-forward thing; it happens pretty often here.”

Driver: *to her friends* “Sweet guys! Free drinks!”

(I hand them their four drinks and ask if they’d like to pay it forward.)

Driver: “Why would I? I just saved 11 bucks!”

Me: “Well, have a good day!”

Coworker: “I get it when someone intends to pay for one drink, and can’t afford a huge total of the person behind them. But when that happens it just makes me want to throw things.”

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Pay It Forward Is Coming

, , , | Hopeless | April 1, 2019

In New Zealand, we have “pay it forward” initiatives where you can ask for help with pretty much anything except asking for straight money. The idea is that for every instance you accept a gift, you try to gift something or several somethings yourself, even if it’s just time cleaning a yard up or cleaning a house.

A friend of mine and her partner have had it really rough recently but refused to ask for help; for three weeks they were homeless, and she’s eight months pregnant. When they got a house, they found out that the only heating available was a fireplace — we’re heading into winter in New Zealand. So, when firewood was on offer on the pay-it-forward page, I asked to be considered on their behalf. My ask was accepted and we went to pick up the wood.

The lovely lady who was gifting the wood floored us all with her generosity, telling us to take as much as we wanted because it all had to go. We filled my van twice and still have to go back tomorrow to do more. But before we called it a night, this wonderful woman also gifted both my friend and me a package each of vegan, cruelty-free baby soap!

If you’re reading this, know that your generosity and genuine care for others has stunned us and that you have made the prospect of winter for two wonderful people who fell on hard times not only bearable but pleasant.

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Passed Out From The Kindness

, , , , | Hopeless | January 5, 2019

(I’m working the closing shift with another coworker when suddenly an elderly lady passes out cold on one of our tables. Some other customers are with her immediately and I call an ambulance right away. I help by grabbing blankets and something to drink as soon as she is conscious again and the ambulance takes her to the hospital. Through all that, some customers stay by her side and tell the paramedics what happened, so she can receive the care she needs. Fast forward three weeks. I’ve been wondering a few times what might have happened to that lady, but I’ve accepted I’ll probably never get to know. I arrive to start my shift one day and see a lady who seems quite familiar standing by a coworker. My coworker greets me and tells me the lady wants to talk to me.)

Elderly Lady: “I don’t know if you remember me, but I’m [Elderly Lady], the woman who passed out here a few weeks ago. I got out of the hospital yesterday and I wanted to stop by and thank you. Thanks to your fast reaction, I’m still here today.”

(She proceeds to tell me that the doctors found an issue with her heart as the reason for her passing out. It needed immediate treatment, which she then received. I tell her what actually happened because she couldn’t really remember.)

Elderly Lady: “I remember another woman kneeling next to me, holding my head and such. Do you happen to know her?”

Me: “No, I’m sorry. That was another customer, and she left when you were taken care of. All I did was call an ambulance, really. Anything else was done by other customers and the paramedics.”

Elderly Lady: “And this was more than I could expect already. Thank you. Will you tell me your name?”

(I gave her my name and told her the name of my coworker, who was there, too. She wrote both of our names down. We talked for a few more minutes until I had to start my shift. She thanked me again and left. Fast forward another two weeks. Once more I arrived at work, this time to find a nicely-wrapped gift with my name on it. Inside was a box of chocolates and a card from the elderly lady, in which she thanked me once more and said how much it meant to her. My coworker got a gift, too. We’re still waiting to see the lady return so we can finally thank her for the gifts. Seeing the lady go the extra mile just because I did what should be common courtesy totally restored my faith in humanity.)

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Drive It Forward

, , , , , | Hopeless | August 15, 2018

(My husband has had a really hard day at a new job involving physical labour out in the sun. It’s about nine pm and we are on our way home, stopping to get fast food for our two young children and ourselves. We have both worked at different restaurants in this chain before, and are familiar with protocol. We pull up to the drive-thru to someone who seems to have been waiting a few minutes in the other lane, and have enough time to figure out our own meals. After we decide, the employee comes over the speaker to our lane first.)

Employee #1: “Hi! What can I get for you?”

Husband: “I believe the gentleman in the other lane was here first.”

Employee #1: “I’ll be with you in a moment.”

(The employee then greets the vehicle in the other lane, while the driver gives us a wave of thanks, to which we smile and return. We order next, and they tell us to pull ahead. When we get to the window and my husband goes to pay after confirming our order…)

Employee #2: “Yeah, that’s already been paid for.”

Husband: “What?!”

Employee #2: “Yeah, that truck right there–” *points to where the other customer was, now at the intersection beside the restaurant* “–paid for your order.

(We thanked the second employee in shock, too surprised to pay it forward to the next vehicle. We had been going through some tough financial times, and this was the first steady job my husband had been able to find in over eight months, so this counted as an expensive treat to our budget. We are very big on paying it forward, and are very glad that there are other people in our city who do the same.)

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Pay It Forward To America

, , , , , , | Hopeless | May 21, 2018

Several years ago, when I was studying abroad in South Africa, two of my friends and I decided to do a road trip along the Garden Route. Our first stop was in Addo, where there is an elephant reserve. I booked all the accommodations and scheduled the whole trip.

We were already renting an 1970s Mercedes Benz and, despite warnings, we took it with us. We underestimated the time it would take to get to Addo from Cape Town and ended up arriving very late to our first hostel. Much to our dismay, the owners weren’t there. A family staying said the owners were out of town but to call a number, get the information, and leave our money. We tried the number several times and got no answer. Since we had seen signs for other hostels on our way in, we decided to take our chances and find another place.

We ended up driving to several with no luck. Despite the car being an automatic, it stalled out like crazy. While I was driving us around trying to find a new hostel, it stalled out again. While I was trying to restart it, someone knocked on our window. All three of us screamed at the top of our lungs. We were in an extremely rural area, late at night, surrounded by almost nothing. After composing myself, I slowly rolled down the window. The older man asked us if we were okay. We explained our situation. He pointed to the only hotel in the area, a high-end place surrounded by a giant wall. We said it was too expensive for us. He said it was late and we should give it a shot, then told us good luck and went on his way.

After driving to more than five other hostels, we gave up and decided to try the hotel. If it was really expensive, we’d ask our parents to wire us more money. The woman who checked us in was quite kind and later, after we’d settled in, she and her husband sat with us while we had dinner in their dining room. They gave us great advice for the rest of our trip.

The next morning, after sleeping in one of the nicest little cottages I’ve ever seen, we went to check out. The woman at the desk was older than woman from the night before. She insisted we have breakfast, even though we’d already had the cereal we brought with us. She was so insistent, we ended up eating at their massive buffet.

And that’s when it happened. As we were eating, she came by and told us that not only was our breakfast free, she was comping our meals from the night before and giving us a discount on our room. We were shocked. It turns out that the woman from the night before was her daughter. It was a family-run joint. She said she knew we came in late and were slightly desperate for a place to stay, and she couldn’t make us pay full price in that condition.

But there’s more. While we were still processing this woman’s kindness, the older man from the night before walked into the dining room. When he saw us, he came over and said, “She give you a good discount?” It was her husband. He’d been out for a nightly walk when he came upon us, sitting in a stalled car, looking terrified. He told his wife to go easy on us if we showed up.

We thanked him profusely for his kindness. He said, “My son went to live in the States. I’m only doing what I hope one of your fellow Americans would do for him if he got in trouble.”

It’s been ten years, and it remains one of the kindest things anyone has ever done for me. Believe me, we reviewed that place on every site we could after our trip was over.

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