Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around.
- Leo Buscaglia

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Don't Forget the Pay It Forward

     Today was about as spectacular a day as one could possibly hope for - perfect temperatures, blue sky, slight breeze.  Awesome.  I was on my way home from some errands early this evening and I figured I needed a Rita's Water Ice.  If you've never tried Rita's, you should.  Great stuff.  Anyway, as I pulled into the parking lot, I decided that Rita's would be the scene for today's act of kindness.
     I was the only customer there at the time.  I ordered a large cup of raspberry lemonade water ice (I highly recommend that one) and was served by a smiling young man who wore a badge announcing that his name was Hunter.  When Hunter handed me my water ice, I told him that I needed some help.  I explained that I wanted him to charge me for a second water ice, and that I wanted him to choose a customer tonight to receive a free one courtesy of a stranger.  He smiled excitedly, anticipating the fun he'd have doing that.  "Anyone?", he asked.  "Yes," I said.  "Pick anyone you want and just let them know it was paid for by a stranger."  He assured me that he'd pick someone good.
     I walked back to my car, satisfied that Hunter was going to have some fun with this one; but as I sat there for a moment enjoying my water ice, it occurred to me that I had once again missed out on a potential "pay it forward" opportunity.  So I got out of the car and went back to talk to Hunter again.  I told him that there was one other thing we need to do.  "When you pick the person and give them their free water ice," I explained, "ask them in return to do something nice for someone else."  Hunter seemed to love that idea and he confirmed that he could definitely do that.
     It's such a small extra step, but what a difference it can make.  It's certainly possible that a recipient of an act of kindness might, on their own, choose to pay it forward.  But specifically asking them to do so must surely increase the likelihood manyfold.  And just imagine that they ask the same of the next person and so on and so on.  Of course, that's the whole idea of the "pay it forward" concept.  It's one of the simplest, yet most powerful ideas I've ever heard for spreading kindness in the world.  
     I want to be better about remembering to include this component as often as is reasonably appropriate.  I'm glad that when I thought of it tonight, I got back out of my car and acted upon it, rather than simply figuring I'll do it next time.  

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