January 6, 2009

on paying it forward...

There have been a few moments in my life recently that really have me thinking about just how much of a difference you can make in the world. Simply by doing the smallest of things. And I think that just knowing that, and experiencing it, has really done wonders for my outlook on life lately.

(And I really need that new outlook. Because I'm counting on this year to be the year that I rediscover my eternal optimism. Wish me luck, because oh, how I need it. The last few years have turned me into a seriously negative nancy. Just ask my husband. He calls me that sometimes. And, naturally, it makes me even more negative. Which surprises him for some reason. Huh. Anyway, moving on.)

I mentioned around the holidays that I'd received a ridiculously large tip from a customer. Well, on New Year's Eve, it happened again. The person who gave it to me apparently does this all the time - walks around, hands out a bill to whoever happens to be working at the time. He even hands them to the security guards on his way out. And it's the way that he does it that really gets to me - he's not at all, "Big spenda! I've got bills in mah pockets! Yeeeeah!" (Granted, I would judge anyone who said those exact words. But you know what I mean.) He's just so quiet and nonchalant about it. He doesn't expect a thank you. He doesn't make a big show out of it. It's as if he's thinking, "Well, I have so much extra - here, you take some." (But not in a condescending way.) It's just nice. Well, more than nice because BOOYAH. That's a lot of extra money for someone like me!

He has no idea what a difference that makes. Or maybe he does. Who really knows.

In the same way, I've been trying to make a bit of a difference myself. When I received the first tip before Christmas, I decided I wanted to take $20 and give it to someone who I wouldn't have normally purchased a gift for. I ended up getting something for the cleaning ladies who work at our building every night. They are the sweetest ladies ever. They work incredibly hard, always have a smile on their faces, and speak pretty much exclusively Spanish, but still try to talk with us and be polite and such. Last Easter, one of them made all the girls at the front desk cute little bags filled with candy and other goodies. How thoughtful is that? She expressed to me how much she loves making things, and how she would spend all her paycheck at Michael's if she could. I was all, "Sweet moses, a woman after my own heart! I want to spend MY whole paycheck at Michael's, TOO! Yessss!" (I don't know if she understood me, but I still like to think that we are kindred souls.)

So, I ended up getting her a $10 Michael's gift card, and the other woman a $10 Target gift card. I bundled them up in cute bags with some candy, and gave it to each of them on Christmas Eve. It felt good to know I was able to pass along a tiny bit of my good fortune.

A few days after that, the one cleaning lady came up to me before she left for the night. She started crying and said said, in broken English, "Thank you. Thank you very much. You mean...a lot to me. Thank you. I love you...very much." I absolutely couldn't believe her gratitude! I was basically standing there with tears in my eyes, telling her that of course she was welcome and that she meant a lot to me, too. She turned and walked away, and I was left there wondering how she could have possibly been so touched by such a small gift. At that point, I wished that I'd done more for them. I still do, actually. I mean, odds are, this woman works hard every day to support her family and probably doesn't have any extra money to just go out and buy some craft supplies whenever she wants to.

But, at least I did something, you know? At least I did that.

So, now I've been thinking a lot about giving more. I'll be a more generous tipper to that wonderful server. I'll put that dollar in the tip jar for the nice girl who made my Subway sandwich. Things like that, you know? Because who knows how much you'll improve someone else's day, just by giving the little extra that you don't really need anyway.

And it does feel good. Especially when I remember just how much things like that mean to me when I'm on the receiving end, you know? So, this is all to say: give more and give generously. You never know what sort of a difference you'll actually be making!

50 comments :

  1. Your cleaning lady story made me tear up a bit. Good job being an awesome person! I think we all need to do little things like that if we can.

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  2. That's lovely! It does feel great when people give random presents, but it feels even better when we could do the same. I think what you did was very thoughtful and I'm sure you will do more one day.
    It is the little things like that which make some days worthwhile.

    Thanks for inspiring me to give more =)

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  3. wow! that brought a tear to my eye... thanks for sharing that story. It's really the smallest things that makes a difference.

    A good reminder for me to give..a little more :)

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  4. I seriously teared up also picturing her and the happiness you gave to her. Giving is one of my favorite things to do, no joke. I know exactly how you feel.

    This one time we were at McAllister's Deli, and this young 16-18-ish year old looking girl was getting yelled at by some guy who's order was wrong when she's just the cashier. When it was my turn to order and pay, I just handed her the debit card and signed the slip, we were doing christmas shopping and I didn't really think about spending MORE money you know? After we sat down, I felt totally ashamed. What is a couple dollars going to hurt me? I always tip, so the guilt was eating at me. I gave Megan $5 out of my purse to go hand to her and tell her thank you. When I saw her take that $5 bill, her face lit up and I could see how happy it made her.$5. Not only that, but later while she was eating, she came up to the table and personally thanked us. Now THAT's how you know you did the right thing. You never know who's in need, so just assume everyone is.

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  5. I work two jobs that are pretty much "tip jobs." One of them, I only make $4.00/hr. without tips, so a bad night for tips is a bad night period. Now, I don't really mind because I'm not trying to support a family or anything, but a lot of people I work with do, and sometimes I make bigger tips because I'm younger and there are a lot of creeper guys eating at that pizzeria, and that's just wrong. So sometimes, at the end of the night, when we all have our aprons off and are cleaning up, I'll distribute my tips among them, because for some people that's their main source of income and they work so hard for it! I'm really glad you made those cleaning ladies' day, it was probably extra special because you knew their interests and bought gifts instead of just giving them money!

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  6. I'm so glad you "paid it forward" - thank you for sharing your awesome story. It makes me believe in "good" - which can be hard to do these days.

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  7. What a good story. I love reading things like this. You should check out this blog. It might help you in your journey. I follow it everyday in hopes of becoming more positive and happy in general. I love this blog!
    http://www.operationnice.com/

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  8. Yesterday, I was coming back to my office after lunch - dragging my feet, of course. An older gentleman who cleans the building (or maybe does maintenance?) greeted me with the biggest smile I've ever seen and boomed, "Hello! How was your New Year?"

    He was so full of joy and enthusiasm it put a spring in my step for the rest of the afternoon.

    It was great.

    (Oh! Mike calls me Negative Nancy ALL the TIME. Gah. I hate it. And it makes me grumpy. OBVIOUSLY proving him wrong, right!? Ha.)

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  9. Yay! A woman after my own bleeding-heart!

    I try to do that as well. We don't have much, but it's often more than others have. I'm always into doing things for someone...I like to do it anonymously if I can though, I feel weird when recognized for such things. But that's me.

    It's nice and refreshing to see your attitude about these things, I've been going through a rough time and need some more positivity in my life!

    Love ya!

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  10. That is truly amazing.. off to go give some!!

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  11. What a beautiful post. Isn't is great to know that you have the ability to bring joy to others? I tend to get overwhelmed by my inability to make any real difference when it comes to the "bigger" problems of the world, but learning to recognize the power of the small things has made a huge difference.

    Your blog is like a breath of fresh air for me and I look forward to reading here each day :)

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  12. I think there are definitely times when you don't realize how much it helps - I know when I was working at a coffee shop, $20 in tips was the difference between me being able to make a car payment or not.

    That sentiment will help a lot of people. I think I'm going to take that attitude too.

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  13. I cried at my desk reading that. I try to live by the same mentality...passing on whatever I can to others, because you just never really know how much the smallest gesture can affect someone.

    I am sure that $10 Michael's gift card was such a big deal to her because she gets to spend it on something she loves that she may not have been able to before.

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  14. My husband and I were just talking about something similar to this the other day - we've decided that next year at Christmas we're going to try to hand out $20 bills to strangers. We've been fortunate here lately and definately want to share the wealth.

    Little by little the world will become a happier place.

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  15. This story is amazing! It reminds me of the Oprah series last year when they would help out the less fortunate and create big surprises. I cried every week when that show came on. Good for you! I think it takes a lot to give to others as we often lean towards keeping it for ourselves. Hopefully your story will inspire others to give back.

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  16. What an amazing story! You are such a sweetheart.

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  17. i love that you wrote this and that you paid it foreword to someone that most people would have over looked.

    at my job, i am generously spoiled by a few of my coworkers and usually i save that money, but reserve a little for a night out with steve. i've been known to slip $20 of that money in a page of a book at borders with "hope this made your day" scribbled onto it. when we go out to dinner on that money? i tip the waiter/waitress $50 or more, even if the bill was $35. why? that $50 wouldn't make a world of difference to me, but it made that persons day. i once had a server chase after me to say thank you. that made MY day.

    go you. xo

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  18. this totally made me tear up. random acts of kindness go a long way. i wanna try to remember that other than just around the holidays.

    great story dear.

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  19. Wonderful post! As a part-time server I can tell you that nine times out of ten the generous customers are always the ones I least expect to be. And the ones who make the job worthwhile. Every once in a while someone will appreciate how hard I work to provide them with perfect service, and when they do it makes up for everyone else who doesn't. You are such a nice girl! I've said it before and will say it again...I LOVE your blog and check in every day. Have a great day, thanks for a nice post that makes us all think a little more.

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  20. This was a great story/post. It's so nice to hear about good things that happen and people do - it's hopeful and inspires other people to be kind. Very cool and thanks for sharing it - it's always good to remember to pay it forward.

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  21. this makes me so happy and...hopeful.

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  22. This is awesome! Good work!:)

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  23. I just wanted to say that to me your blog does not read 'negative' at all. On the contrary, the reason I read it is because it is quite optimistic and uplifting. So don't worry about it too much. Maybe something about the husband is making you negative?

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  24. I really don't have a lot of extra money and yet I've been thinking a lot about this lately. Thinking of non-monetary ways to make a difference in people's lives, either by sending them a handwritten card "just because," or making time for them when I otherwise wouldn't.

    We don't always have money to give, but it's free to give our time.

    Lovely post.

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  25. Great post! I have been trying to give more and do more for other people as well. It is amazing to see what a huge difference doing something small can make.

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  26. your cleaning lady story just made me cry.

    this is so true sweets, thanks for reminding us all to pay it forward, with our money and thoughts/time.

    xo

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  27. That's really touching! Go you!

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  28. Incredible. You make me like you more and more every day! What a giant sweetheart you are.

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  29. That was SO incredibly sweet of you.

    I have a regular customer who gets a $3.25 drink, give me a $10, and tells me to keep the change. He comes about twice a week and on top of the good tip, he's super nice. Since I started working at the coffee shop and get tips, I find that I tip a lot more. Not that I didn't tip before, but now I put an extra dollar or some extra change in the jar for them. I know how happy even a $2 tip makes me so I like to spread that around. ;)

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  30. K, so I might have cried a little bit when I read this. Whatever.

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  31. That was so sweet of you. And while I know you didn't do it for the recognition and for that reaction from her, it obviously makes it just that much sweeter to see how much it meant.

    Totally makes my realize that the little things do matter.

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  32. What a sweet story Kerri :) If only more people in the world understood that concept. I truly believe that all it takes for a more peaceful world is small steps like that :) That may sound naive, but imagine the difference it would make if we all paid it forward!

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  33. You made me cry, that was so sweet.
    Thanks for being an encouragement.
    :)Lisa

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  34. amen sista!

    call me hormonal, but that entry totally put a tear in my eye. seriously. it's amazing to see the kind of gratitude and sincerity in someone because of a kind but small gesture, it truly comes back two fold...

    i miss you kerri.

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  35. I loved loved loved this entry! Way to go on doing something so super-nice! :)

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  36. aw i just teared up a bit at my desk. that is such a sweet story and it's always such a great feeling to be able to give back or give in general. huge props to you :)

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  37. Wow, I couldn't have said it any better! That absolutely made my heart melt! It truly is the best feeling when someone is so grateful for something that you did to make their day. Rock on girl! You won't be a Negative Nancy for long...you are well on your way to becomming an Optimistic Olivia!!!

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  38. Even though I read about this when you twittered it, it gave me chills when I read it just now too. Kindness is so under rated, let's bring it back!

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  39. theres been a lot of talk about paying it forward this year and its something that really has me thinking! i definitely want think of ways that i can make someone feel special or make a difference in a way that nay seem so simple to me but has such an incredible impact on someone else. i've been on the recieving end before and was ever so thankful each time :D
    this post was inspiring! way to pay it forward!!

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  40. I believe everyone should be like this. I think that everyone has been on both sides of this story. Paying it forward is such an inspiring task to do some many other things.

    And you are right, next time at subway or eating out tip that dollar or two. It really does make a difference. Thank you for your wonderful writing.

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  41. You are such a sweet girl. This post made me happy in so many ways. We really do need to give and give generously. I love making others happy, so I know how you must have been feeling in that moment when she thanked you.

    Thank you for the reminder that I need to give more. *Big hugs*

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  42. What a great idea. :) Hopefully they continued the trend. Who knows, you and the big tipper might have helped bring smiles to many, many faces and you'll never know it.

    Thanks for the blog comment! I couldn't agree more--attractive young doctors are never, ever a good idea. Lucky for me, I don't really fancy this one's looks, so I think I'm safe. Phew! :)

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  43. I LOVE THIS. And you for speaking on it. Ever been in line at Starbucks and the person in the drive thru before you pay for you? It happens here in Nashville all the time. The Starbucks employees say that the chain goes on all day. AMAZING.

    I hear an Anne Franke quote coming.

    Seriously, you are so many shades of awesome. I wish we lived closer.

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  44. Aw, you're awesome, and that was an awesome story! Made me tear up a lil..*sniff* I have thought about "paying it forward" many times. Our local contemporary Christian radio station has a pay it forward day every week and it's so cool cause all of these people from all over our little metropolis of Northwest Arkansas get all into it and call in to the station to talk about it and you can just really tell that people love doing it! It's really uplifting!

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  45. preach it sista! :)

    we need more genuine, kindhearted people like you in our world.

    such a good reminder to give, give, & give more.

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  46. You are such a sweetheart. I love you!

    Thanks so much for this post, like others said, it totally made me tear up. What you did was so wonderful - I Love that you gave one of the women a Michael's gift card, so the gift will be just for her.

    You are so inspiring! Thanks for the reminder to give generously and what a difference it can make to someone. xoxo

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  47. Seriously, this? This post right here? Is why everyone (seriously, everyone) absolutely adores you.

    You are such a gem, remember that, always.

    What you did for the cleaning ladies is incredibly sweet, and I'm still smiling after reading about it. ox

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  48. I think, sometimes, it is just the fact that you've thought of someone. Sometimes I am floored just to get a card from someone that I didn't even realize remembered it was my birthday, for example. It is just nice to know you were thought of.

    I love your writing!

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  49. I really agree with you!.

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  50. Oh this story made me cry. That was such a beautiful thing to do. I've read your blog before, but this might be my first time commenting. I'm wishing good things for you. I hope you have a great day! :D

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