Pay It Forward

I’ve avidly started following the blog 365 Days of Kindness, because, if for no other reason, the subtitle states, “BECAUSE THE WORLD COULD USE ONE LESS ASSHOLE.” Preach, sister. Seriously though, her blog is really cool, and gives me little inspirations to be a better person; in turn, power to make the world a better place. If you’re not following it, well, you should. And if you’re reading this and don’t already, then you should follow us, too. Just sayin’.

I’d like to think I do small things on a daily basis that make the world a brighter place, but, the reality is this: I know some days I generally suck at being a human being. No seriously, I’m not trying to be self-deprecating here, I’m just being honest. Some days I’m so negative and nasty, I need to be reminded that it does no one any favors to be an asshole. So thank you 365 Days of Kindness writer.

The post Leave a $20 bill on the Sidewalk left it’s mark on me; my husband and I were in Burlington last week and we did a little shopping and had a lovely dinner. My husband was on a heated work call as we were walking back to the car and barely noticed any of the following: we passed a group of decently groomed and dressed men laughing with the sign “Hungry Hungry Hobos” in front of them. I smiled at the sign, and one of the men gave me a leering look. Frankly, it was a complete turnoff. We continued to walk. About two stores down, sitting on the edge of a step, was a young woman who looked to be college age or a bit older. While she was decently dressed, there were dirt stains on her body and her clothes – an indication that she was literally sleeping on the streets. Her sign said, “Practicing random acts of kindness and <3.” I smiled, and noticed a vacant, haunting look on her face, but proceeded to my car.

As my husband continued his phone call in the car, I sat watching her for a few minutes. It was the look on her face that tore into me – this was the look of something akin to lost, desperate, complete sadness, and perhaps hopelessness. I can’t really say. It wasn’t a practiced or contrived look, but a genuinely bleak look. I only had a $20 bill in my purse and I went up to her, stuck the bill under her hand and squeezed it. She looked at the bill, up at me, and smiled so brightly, and said, “Thank you so much!” I literally had to run away. I could barely hold myself together in the car, and thankfully, my husband was so wrapped up in the end of his call he didn’t notice me turning my head wiping my tears.

It ripped me apart, the thought – to be her… I’m surrounded by family, a home, general happiness, and things, and, well, if I’d have had a $100 or even a $500 bill in my purse, I’m pretty sure I’d have stuck that in her hand that night.

I tested for my yellow belt last week, and noticed one of the other members didn’t have shin guards for his test. By the stage of testing, you should have the equipment needed, so it struck me as curious that he still didn’t have any. I approached one of the coaches today in the office, and very quietly asked if this student still needed shin guards. She was busy, but stopped to look up at me. Her face softened, and she said, “Yes, he’s going through some difficulties and we’re trying to work with him.”

“I’ve got it,” I said.

She drew in a breath, smiled, and said, “That’s very kind of you. Are you sure?”

I looked at her and simply stated, “There have been so many people who’ve stepped forward to help me when times were tough, I want to pay it forward as often as possible.” She said she’d give me a discount, but I told her that was unnecessary; I wanted to do this and didn’t want to shortchange the school. She insisted.

Her final question, “Do you want him to know this is from you?”

Me, “No. Just say it’s a gift.”

“You know he’s going to pester the hell out of me for the next month to find out who did this,” she said.

Smirking, I said, “That’s all on you, lady. Just tell him to pay it forward.”

Now, I wholeheartedly understand both these instances involve money, and I’m in a position where the money given doesn’t set me back. Money isn’t the point here.  If someone helps you in a time of need – whether it’s financial or not – realize most people are doing what they’re doing because they can, but more importantly, because they want to. Simply put, most people don’t want anything more than your happiness, even if you’re a total stranger to them. Thank them, but don’t try to pay them back. Express your gratitude by paying it forward and making the world a better place for another person.

I’m reminded of a quote from E.M. Forster‘s Where Angels Fear to Tread:

“For a wonderful physical tie binds the parents to the children; and—by some sad, strange irony—it does not bind us children to our parents. For if it did, if we could answer their love not with gratitude but with equal love, life would lose much of its pathos and much of its squalor, and we might be wonderfully happy.”

These words have stuck with me since college when I read this book. The whole parent thing is another beast for me – like therapy beast kinda thing.

…answer…love not with gratitude but with equal love…we might be wonderfully happy.

pay it forward thumbnail image credit, pass it on butterfly image credit


  1. Karie

    While in Chicago a few months ago, there was a young woman and her say 6 year old daughter. My husband and I had the same idea without saying a word we headed to Walgreens and subway and bought some water, fruit and a gift card for her to buy her daughter lunch. When gave it to her and we were blessed!

    1. dangerouslybeautifulmoms

      Thank you. I think we all need reminders to pay it forward as often as possible. I’m always reminded of that video where a guy is walking around a food pavilion and asking if people will share their food because he’s hungry, and no one will share. He comes across a homeless man, and this is the only one willing to share. It doesn’t have to be money or food, it just needs to be a genuine gesture 🙂

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