A couple of years ago I walked into a grocery store ready to do some less than serious shopping. As I went for a grocery cart I heard a young woman literally pleading with her two young children to calm down. I heard her say “It’s MaMa’s birthday. Please settle down.”
She looked totally frustrated.
I grabbed my cart and walked into the store. Right inside the door was a display of small potted plants. There was a price tag of $8.98 on them. Out of impulse I picked one up and walked back to the young mother and put it in her basket with a $10 bill to pay for it.
I simply said “Happy Birthday,” and walked away.
Later in the store I saw her walking toward me.
She was crying.
When she approached me she said “Thank you. No one has ever been this nice to me.”
As she continued on, I noticed she had very little in her cart. Something like one package of macaroni and cheese, a couple of cans of soup, and a pack of hot dogs. I turned and asked her if she would rather use the $10 for groceries than for the plant.
She looked at me and said “Do you mean it?”
I said “Yes.”
That is when she told me she was a single mother and was not getting any help. She was crying again.
She hadn’t asked for money.
She hadn’t just dropped the plant and took the money – she could have – I would have never known.
I dropped a second $10 bill in her cart and told her to “have a good day.”
Afterwards, I really felt good. I had a good day.
At the time, I had never heard of “paying it forward.” I’m glad I did what I did when I did it. In a lot of ways it seems many people today feel entitled to being given something for nothing – not out of someone’s kindness but out of someone’s obligation.
I have to admit my trust is down – my skepticism is up.
But then, every once in a while I hear about some of the amazing situations that make it all worthwhile again.
A couple of weeks ago Jade was watching Dr. Phil on television. (Yes – me neither). She decided there was a segment I had to watch. Since I often ask her to watch a spectacular baseball or football play (the important things), I felt obligated to watch.
The story she wanted me to see was about an 8 year-old boy who found a $20 bill on the ground while walking into a Cracker Barrel Restaurant with his mother. When he got inside he spotted a man wearing his military uniform.
The young boy walked up to the man and handed him the $20 bill telling the soldier “My dad was in the Army too. He died. I want you to have this. I want to thank you.” (This may not be exact, but it is how I remember it.)
Paying it forward, or paying it backward? In this case, it is the same.
A young boy – really an 8 year-old young man – honored his father by honoring another soldier.
This kind of story happens every day. We just don’t hear much about the good stories. But when we do, we are usually glad we did.
For instance, this year on June 14th a Florence Freedom baseball player and the teenager who saved his life were reunited.
As written by Travis Thayer for Eagle Country 99.3, “Isaac Wenrich, a catcher for the Florence Freedom, of the Frontier League, suffered a massive “widowmaker” heart attack in March, reports WLWT-TV.
“The term “widowmaker” is used because the left main coronary supplies blood to large areas of the heart. When the arteries get abruptly and completely occluded it can cause a massive heart attack that will likely lead to sudden death.
“Wenrich, 26, was able to survive the massive heart attack thanks in part to 13-year-old Nate Bowyer, who Wenrich had been giving baseball lessons to during the off-season in Arizona. Bowyer just happened to be there when Wenrich collapsed, but he sprang into action by calling 911 and performing CPR.
“Two months later, Wenrich was behind the plate catching for the Freedom.
“Bowyer was flown into town last week and surprised Wenrich by throwing out the first pitch before the Freedom’s June 10 match-up with the Evansville Otters.”
Wow – a fantastic 13 year-old – a great reunion. A video of Wenrich’s response when he recognized Nate Bowyer was priceless.
“Paying it back” at its best.
Maybe not at its total best.
About the same time Isaac Wenrich was meeting Nate Bowyer on the Florence Freedom pitching mound, CNN had a story about an Obstetrician who 32 years ago stayed around the clock at the hospital, virtually without sleep, for four days in an effort to keep a 2 pound 8 ounce boy alive.
Thirty-two years later the doctor was in a serious automobile accident. Only the fast work of a first-responder EMT kept the doctor from dying on the spot.
Correct – The first responder was the “2 pound 8 ounce boy” the doctor had saved 32 years earlier.
Did this really happen? I don’t know – I think so since I heard it on CNN. At the same time, I can’t find back-up documentation to support it.
In a way it doesn’t matter whether the baby – the doctor – the EMT are real. There are many stories each day, each week that are real – one of which, involved former University of Tennessee Women’s basketball coach, Pat Summit.
Summit, who will be remembered as a one of the best coaches in basketball history died last week. Throughout the week she was memorialized for her impact on the sport of Women’s basketball and for the impact of the hundreds of players she coached and mentored. Most sports fans, and many of those who are not sports fans know and respect the public Pat Summit.
She will always be remembered.
While her public persona deserves all the respect and all the accolades, few knew the private Pat Summit. One insight into the private Pat Summit was mentioned in the obituary written by Sports Illustrated.
That obituary related the time Summit had just boarded a plane and was settling into her first row seat when she noticed a young woman starting to sob in the seat across the aisle. That woman, one of the flight attendants, stood up, wiped her tears, and made the on board announcements.
When she was done making the announcements she told Pat Summit that she had changed her life. Years earlier, after a basketball game at Texas Tech, Summit was walking off of the floor when she saw a young girl in a wheelchair.
She stopped, got down on one knee, and told the young girl she could “be what you want to be.” She encouraged the young girl work hard to achieve her goals.
The young girl did.
And, on that plane, that night, that young girl got to meet the woman who inspired her to work her way out of that wheelchair and into her dream job.
Many such stories, including those under the guise of “paying it forward,” show the good that humanity can be.
Unfortunately, we don’t hear many of these stories, and often when we do it is from recollections of life after the sadness of death.
After all, who wants to hear the good when there is so much bad to read about and hear about? The bad is what we really thirst for. The knowledge we want.
Still, what would the world be like if everyone was good to one another?
If the good outdistanced the bad?
We will never know.
– Mike Cooney