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.)

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.

Took Note Of Your Kindness

, , , , , , | Hopeless | April 30, 2018

(Chicago is having a particularly nasty cold snap, with temperatures routinely hitting negative ten Fahrenheit, or even lower. One evening, around eight pm, I am heading out of the physics classroom when another student catches up to me.)

Girl: “Hey, you work for the biology department, right?”

Me: “Yeah, I’m a student employee. What’s up?”

Girl: “Do you know if either of the lab managers are still around?”

Me: “No, they usually leave around five. Why? Does your research lab need to borrow equipment?”

Girl: “Oh, crap! No, I accidentally left my coat and mittens in one of the classrooms, and now the door’s locked, and I’m walking home tonight.”

Me: “Which classroom? I might have the key to it. If not, I’m giving you a ride; I drove today.”

(She tells me, and sure enough, it’s a room I have access to. Thirty seconds later, I have the door open and she’s pulling her coat out of the closet at the back of the room.)

Girl: “Oh, my God, thank you so much!”

Me: “No worries, chica. It’s way, way too cold to be without a coat. You sure you don’t want a ride?”

Girl: “Nah, it’s only a ten-minute walk; it’s just too far to go without a coat in this weather. Thanks, though!”

Me: “Fair enough. Have a good rest of the night!”

(We wish each other well, and I think no more about it. Because the lab is smaller than the lecture hall, our physics class will have one early lab section, then the lecture for everyone, then one late lab section. I’m usually in the late lab section, because I’m at work earlier in the afternoon. For lab-based exams, we’re allowed one sheet of notes and formulas. The day of our final lab exam, I take off work, and spend nearly four hours typing up my notes. Two sentences from the end, the computer starts glitching and shuts off, and when I finally get it up and started again, my carefully saved document is nowhere to be seen. It’s only twenty minutes until class, and I’m fighting an anxiety attack and trying not to cry in the middle of the computer lab, when the girl from before comes over.)

Girl: “Hey, you okay?”

Me: “The computer, it ate my note sheet! And I saved the document, but it’s not on the drive, and I don’t have time to copy it out again, and oh, God, oh, God, oh, God, I don’t know what I’m going to do!”

Girl: “Here. Do you want mine?”

Me: “What? Don’t you need it?”

Girl: “No, I take the earlier lab section. I just finished up; I was coming over to print the lecture notes.”

Me: “Oh, my God, thank you! I’ll get it back to you in class Wednesday, as soon as I see you!”

Girl: “No need. You can keep it. Feel free to add any notes you need; I don’t need it back.”

Me: “Oh, man. Thank you so much!”

Girl: “No worries! Fair trade for making sure I wasn’t walking home in January without a coat.”

(I spent the next twenty minutes adding a few of my own notes and shortcuts, and managed to get a high B on the lab exam. That entire physics class was one of the friendliest I’ve ever been in, but the girl who gave me her note sheet when I was on the brink of having a breakdown totally takes the cake!)

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.)

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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