One could go on and on forever talking about anything, but I'll just touch on it here.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Paying it Forward

Perhaps I'm the only one out there a little miffed by the drive-thru-pay-it-forward kindness going on. Yes, I don't doubt it gives people a wonderful feeling inside when they pay for the order of the driver behind them. I don't doubt that the receiver of the gift feels happy and surprised. But I feel irksome when it happens at places like, say, Starbucks, because everyone is there getting pricey beverages or pastries. They must be able to afford it or they wouldn't be in line. It's almost a luxury, don't you think? And if everybody just keeps paying for everybody, well, why is it frowned upon when someone suddenly just accepts the gift?

I debated for a few months whether to even write about this, because I don't want to judge the people dining at Starbucks. I especially don't want to look down my nose at the person who maybe shouldn't spend her last two pennies on a frappuchino, because, really, we all deserve a little treat now and then. And the last thing I really want to do is criticize or judge how people choose to give.

Ah, but that is what I am doing.

Here's what got me all worked up. I read a news article about a particular Starbucks that had pay it forward going all day one day, resulting in I don't remember how many hundred orders paid for by the drivers in front. It came to an end when someone decided to accept the gift but not pay for the driver behind him or her. What did the barista do? He (or she) told the driver about the chain of kindness and asked if the driver wanted to keep it going. The driver did not. Then the barista said, quoted in the article, that he (or she) didn't think the last person really understood the concept of pay it forward.

I say maybe the person really did understand. Maybe the person thought that pay it forward wasn't about free fluffy drinks or making the news by setting some kind of record for a business. Maybe pay it forward to that driver was all about reaching out a helping hand to someone in need. Heck, I don't know, maybe that driver was the person spending his or her last two pennies on a drink. Suddenly having those pennies probably felt really great.

So I was pretty worked up over this issue, thinking over what pay it forward meant to me, when Luke and I became the recipients of a random act of kindness while visiting a Starbucks. I was first fuming about the truck in front of us with the four wheelers and elk head strapped to the back. I was going off about why people wanted to cut off animal heads and put them on their walls (I'll save that rant in the depths of my brain), when the truck left and Luke pulled up to the window. The barista told us our drinks were paid for and would we like to pay for the ones behind. I won't tell you what we decided to do, but I will admit I felt a little bad for thinking such evil thoughts about the people in the truck.

What spurred the person ahead of us to pay for our drinks? I don't know. I can't question his motives. I do hope it was in the spirit of spontaneous giving, or if not spontaneous at least not because he felt guilted into it. It was nice.

Rather than judging everyone or picking apart how they share money or gifts with others I really need to look in my own heart. What good is it to go around telling myself, Well, I'm not going to pay for that person's coffee because he shouldn't be drinking it anyway. (Hey, I'm not a hypocrite; I never said I drink coffee at Starbucks). It goes back to what I said about action compassion. I need to live with a spirit of giving that puts callouses on my hands. Not so I can show them to everyone and brag about what I've done, but so that I am not just talking and talking and talking about doing kindness but actually doing it.

I can't say I suddenly feel great about all this pay it forward in the media (I do like good news stories for a change, but . . . ), yet I will say that I hope my grumbling turns into active ways I can pay it forward out there.

And thank you to the hunter who paid for our drinks.

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