My post today is triggered by one over on Inside our Hands; Outside our Hearts about a kind act by a stranger.
Anybody remember the "Pay it Forward" movement back a number of years ago? I don't hear much about it these days, although there is a commercial running now that illustrates it. The basic point is, when someone does a nice thing for you, you return the favor by helping yet another person down the line. Here's something about "Pay it Forward."
In the early 1980s I was a grad student at the University of Arkansas making about 500 dollars a month. I had managed, however, to save enough to attend a neuroscience conference in Dallas. (Fortunately, my major professor was driving and let me ride with him.) I stayed at the cheapest hotel I could find, well away from the convention center but at least close enough to catch the bus in every morning. I attended all the talks or parties at the convention where you could find free food, and I ate elsewhere as cheaply as possible.
One evening I was eating at Shoney’s. I had long-hair even then, and was dressed in t-shirt and jeans, one of my few pairs without holes in them. A guy came in carrying a painting he’d done. He came right up and asked if I would buy it so he could afford to eat. I felt horrible for him, but I was eating the cheapest thing they had and after paying for the meal I was going to have less than five dollars in my billfold. I certainly didn’t have the twenty he was asking for the painting. I told him, “Sorry man, but I’ve barely got enough to cover my own meal.”
He thanked me anyway, turned and walked away. I saw him try a few other tables without luck before leaving the diner. Shortly after that I asked my waitress to bring the check, to which she replied, “It’s taken care of.” I asked what she meant and she gestured toward a table where several fellows in their sixties were sitting. “The guy in the gray suit paid for it,” she said.
Stunned, I went over to their table to explain that I had enough to cover my meal. The guy who had paid for me said, “Well I heard what you said about not having much money and I’ve been there myself. Just thought I’d help.” I told him thanks and left, and over twenty years later I still remember it clearly. The guy didn’t know me. I looked scruffy and probably down on my luck. And he reached out, a perfect stranger, to give me a hand.
I wonder if that guy is still alive. I’d sure like to thank him again, and to tell him that I think of him whenever I help someone else.