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Paying it forward. What are you doing to better the world?

Posted by derekbobo on May 11, 2009

Two years ago I was in Walmart near Christmas time. As you can imagine this is utter chaos at this time of year. I found myself in line behind a woman who was by herself. She had various odds and ins for the holiday season including gifts. When it came time for her to pay she pulled out a big wad of cash and begin counting it out to the clerk only to come up short. She ended up taking a toy that was apparently to be a gift for one of her children. She paid the clerk and walked out of the store.

From the moment she walked away I couldn’t stand that I hadn’t chipped in the difference for her. I was 21 at the time but my wife and I have been very fortunate to be as financially well off as we are at our age. It was Christmas time and I had missed an opportunity to do a great deed.

A year or so goes by and I’m in a Walmart waiting to check out. There’s a couple who is probably in their early 30s in front of me and they have a small child with them. When the final amount pops up on their screen they realize they aren’t going to have enough and start taking items out to make up the difference. One of the items was a flea removal product… I assume they had pets in their house or something. This of course took me back to the Christmas where I had taken no action.

I told the clerk to go ahead and check them out with what they could cover and I ended up paying about $40 of their items. They were so shocked that someone was willing to do this for them and proceeded to thank me repeatedly and tell me that I didn’t have to do it. I simply replied that I knew I didn’t have to do it but I wanted to. We all have hard times where we could use some help, the only thing I asked was that they do something nice for someone else.

I left the store feeling pretty good. That $40 mean far more to that couple than it did to me and I can only hope that the longer term payoff is much more than the $40 I spent.

I’ve since pondered what it is I want to do with my life. I have a lot of goals and ambitions but ultimately I think where I have landed is that I want to live a life of significance. I want to be someone who people are proud to know and proud to call a friend or family member. This is a goal I’m going to try to remind myself of on a daily basis.

I know it’s easy to get tunnel vision and wrapped up in our own little worlds. I’m as guilty as the next, but I challenge you to pay it forward. Try to do something nice and unexpected on a regular basis. I’d also encourage you to share those experiences with the world, not for notoriety for having performed the act, but to encourage others to do the same.


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