Pay it Forward, Pass it On

I’ve had two interesting experiences at my neighborhood McDonald’s since I’ve been blogging. The first one occurred during my year of firsts. Aubrey and I stopped by to get her an after school snack. She wanted to eat inside. After I placed the order, the young man behind the counter said, “Sing. Sing and your purchase is free.”  We happened by on the first day of a new campaign. 

The only song that I could think of, put on the spot like that, was Happy Birthday. Yeah, as in “happy birthday to you…happy birthday to you…happy birthday dear McDonald’s person…happy birthday to you.” Aubrey hid around the corner. I’m sure my cheeks were bright pink as my voice trailed away. But we got our purchase for free. And it’s a funny story now, that Aubrey laughs about. 

The second experience happened today. 

As I was headed home after a trip to the grocery store, I swung through the drive-thru and ordered a large unsweet iced tea. As I stopped at the first window to pay, the friendly cashier thrust his arms out in a “stop” gesture and told me with a grin that the car ahead of me had paid for my purchase. 

How cool. 

I’ve had fun doing that several times in the last couple of years, however this was my first time to be the recipient of such an act of kindness. I love pay it forward activities, and I wanted to continue it. I promptly paid for the purchase of the car behind me. While I had only ordered a drink, the person behind me had ordered a meal plus an additional burger and drink. I didn’t mind the difference in cost at all. 

I waved merrily to the car ahead of me, wordlessly expressing my gratitude. The cashier beamed when I paid for the car behind me. He expressed the hope that everyone else in line would continue to pass on the act of kindness. 

As I pulled forward to receive my drink at the next window, I glanced behind me and caught a glimpse of who was in the car. And my eyes filled with tears. 

Yesterday I was in a situation where I didn’t know what to do. I had lunch with my granddaughter at her school. As we ate, I couldn’t help but notice a boy near us. He was eating a lunch brought from home. And it wasn’t much of a meal. He had food. But not the best food. 

I wanted to go buy him a school lunch. But I was unsure if that was the right thing to do. My thoughts swirled around…What if he is offended? What if he packed his own lunch and this is his choice? What if it’s not allowed, for me to buy a child a meal? In the end, I did nothing. 

And for the rest of the day, I regretted my inaction. Over and over I wished I had simply gotten up, bought him a meal, and let him decide if he wanted it or not. 

Ultimately, my question had been, “Does buying one meal for a child  one time make a difference?”  I knew I wouldn’t be present in the lunchroom the next day or the next. Did it matter? 

The question went out…and today, it was answered. 

As I drove forward I saw into the car behind me. A young woman looked surprised as she was stopped from paying for her food. She looked my way and smiled as the cashier gestured toward me. And behind her, in the back seat, was a small child. I had bought his food. 

“Does buying one meal for a child one time make a difference?”

Yes. Yes it does. No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted. I got the chance to feed a child afterall. And if I ever see the boy at Aubrey’s school again during lunch, I will follow my instincts and buy him a lunch. 

Because it matters. 

Pay it forward…pass it on. 

Journey 180: Have a Snack

Ive been wanting to do this pay it forward activity for a while, ever since Dayan and I saw the idea on Facebook. I had to wait until I rented another DVD before I could carry out my plan.

Before I returned Still Alice to the store, I wrote a note that says “Enjoy the movie…and a snack! Pay It Forward!” and taped it and a couple of $1 bills inside the DVD cover. Easy to do. I know the store employees pop open the cases to make sure the DVDs are present, before returning the movies to the shelves. I hope he or she was okay with my surprise!

And I hope the next person who rents the DVD enjoys the surprise. That’s the fun…and the trust factor. Once they leave my hands, these “pay it forwards” go out and where they end up and who is touched by them is beyond what I need to know.

It is totally up to the next individual whether they pay the act forward, or not. Again, that’s beyond my control, which I love. The truth is, no act of kindness, large or small, goes unanswered, no act of love is in vain. The ripples move outward, and goodness follows. And that is all I need to know.

Journey 33: Pay with Lovin’

Pay with Love sticker

What a delightful, and unexpected, journey I experienced this afternoon, led by a child. The path my granddaughter, Aubrey, set us on provided moments of fun, embarrassment, moving beyond discomfort and an opportunity for paying love forward. It also, in an amazing way, brought me full circle on a journey that began a year ago.

After I picked up Aubrey from school, I intended to take her to one of her favorite after school hangouts for a snack and playtime. However, today she informed me she wanted to visit McDonald’s instead. One of their restaurants is just down the street from Aubrey’s school, but no, she wanted to visit the McDonald’s on Main Street. And rather than go through the drive-through, she asked if we could eat inside. Since I say “yes” as often as I can, I agreed to her idea and off to the home of the golden arches we went.

Pay with Love McLovin

I placed Aubrey’s order for a child’s Happy Meal and three chocolate chip cookies, and I ordered an unsweet tea for myself. The cheerful young man behind the counter took our order then flashed a huge grin at me. “Sing….and your whole order is free,” he said. “What? No way,” I replied, thinking he was pulling my leg. (Okay, I didn’t pay a lot of attention to the McDonald’s commercial during the Super Bowl last night.) Aubrey and I exchanged looks and the little smartie retreated to a safe distance….behind a wall to the rear of us, where she could peek around the corner. The young man behind the counter assured me he was sincere….if I would sing, the meal and cookies and drinks were free. The manager came over to tell me it was a promotion. I just had to sing.

I sing all the time…in the shower, in the car, while I’m working, and especially when I’m cleaning house or just feeling exceedingly joyful. My song last year was “Let It Go”, from the Frozen movie, and I can belt that tune out with gusto. This year’s song is “My Life”, which I know equally well. With two McDonald’s employees smiling at me and a line of people behind me, waiting and watching, and Aubrey peering around the edge of the wall, I sang the first song that came into my head in that moment….Happy Birthday.  Oh yes, as in:

Happy Birthday to you, Happy Birthday to you,

Happy Birthday dear McDonald’s employee,

Happy Birthday to you.

I know without a doubt that my cheeks were pink by the end of my little rendition, and not from exertion! We received the meal for free, and the smiles and accolades of everyone around us. Aubrey came out from behind the wall and chatted with customers, asking me later if I knew those people. We found a place to sit and talked about what had just happened. I realized the current promotion is McDonald’s “Pay with Lovin’”, which just began today. Through Valentine’s Day, participating restaurants will choose customers at random and allow them to perform an act of lovin’ in exchange for a meal. The options include calling a family member or friend and telling them you love them, a song, a fist bump, a hug or complimenting a person in line. While I was initially surprised by the request to sing, Aubrey and I agreed it was fun, and she laughed at my choice of songs. I was embarrassed by my choice of songs! And yet, it was good for Aubrey to see me move past discomfort and do something unexpected.

Pay with Love Yaya sings

Aubrey’s reaction to me singing Happy Birthday

Pay with Love Aubrey is grateful

Aubrey thankful for her free meal

In fact, Aubrey entered wholeheartedly into the lovin’ and made a donation to Ronald McDonald House, writing her name herself on a paper heart. She was thrilled to discover that the heart would be attached to the wall and it gave me an opportunity to share with her about the goodness that Ronald McDonald House does in sheltering families while a child undergoes treatment at the hospital. She also received a small yellow heart in her Happy Meal with #Love on it, which she proudly held up in front of the wall of hearts in McDonalds. I loved sharing the experience with Aubrey, watching her give and grow.

And there was even more to the story than Aubrey realized. Almost a year ago, on February 14, 2014, I stepped WAY out of my comfort zone, purchasing white roses and handing them out to strangers. I focused on people who were working that evening, rather than spending time with a loved one, and people who were eating alone on Valentine’s Day. One of my last stops that night, was the McDonald’s on Main Street. Inside the restaurant I handed a rose to the young woman working behind the counter, and then gave roses to four men who were scattered among the tables, each sitting alone. The looks on their faces and their soft “thank you’s” were priceless and I left feeling a love in my heart that was so much deeper than romance.

It felt, today, that that act of kindness had come back to me, in the form of a free meal, and the fun and lovin’ atmosphere within the McDonald’s that Aubrey chose, not knowing what I had done there almost a year ago. I love the grace and affirmation of that return. And that Aubrey chose to pay it forward, keeping that great Lovin’ energy going, by making a donation. It will come back to you too, sweet girl, even as that love goes ever outward. Just you wait and see!

Pay with Love Aubrey contributes to Ronald McDonald House

Day 356: Have a Coke on Me

Have a coke 2

Today, three days before Christmas, Joplin streets were congested with heavy traffic and stores were filled with holiday shoppers and busy clerks. I spent a good part of the day participating in the bustle, almost completing my holiday shopping and enjoying some time with Aubrey at her favorite hang out spot, Chick Fil A on Range Line.

After Aubrey headed home, I finished up my day, making several stops. Along the way I decided today was a good day to do a first I’ve had on my list for a while, a pay it forward that offered an anonymous treat for someone, perhaps a tired shopper or a worker who needed a little break.

I dropped eight quarters into a clear plastic bag and included a note that encouraged the one who found the bag to enjoy a Coke on me. I taped the little package to a coke vending machine at a busy retail center. Because we’ve had drizzly rain all day, I chose a vending machine in a spot that offered protection from the weather and was well lit.

I loved doing this pay it forward this evening. I didn’t stay around to see how quickly the change was discovered and who the recipient was, although that might have been fun. I taped the baggie to the bright red vending machine and left, with a grin on my face. I hope someone who needed a bit of a pick me up found the quarters and used them. And I hope they opened the note card. Inside I simply printed, “Pay it Forward!”

Have a coke e


Day 169: Giving Jars


Today’s first was inspired by my facebook friend, Marva. In several of her posts she told the story of her neighbor and her exchanging a mason jar filled with various goodies. One would give the other a gift in the jar, such as soup, and the other would soon return the jar, filled with something new. Marva didn’t know she was inspiring me….she was just being her delightful self and as a result, goodness went out into the world and sparked creativity in me.

I adapted the idea. Today I created two giving jars, using pint sized mason jars. I filled each one with blackberries and blueberries and tied a burlap ribbon around the top of the jar. They looked cute and they were filled with a healthy snack. As the recipients of the giving jars use up the gift, they can then fill the jar with whatever they want, when they want, and pass the jar on to someone else. This is an act of paying it forward.

The first person I dropped a jar off to was my younger daughter, Adriel. This hard working child is currently taking two summer classes and then has one more semester of nursing school. She has persevered and continued down this path without wavering. She has worked while going to college and then nursing school, so this has been a long, slow process for her. I know she’s dealing with stress, with school and work and life. I also knew that today she was home studying for an online exam this evening. I wanted her to know I was thinking of her and quietly cheering on her. She knows I love her, but sometimes it doesn’t hurt to show that love in a very concrete way.

The next person to receive a giving jar was my friend, Cate. She invited me over for dinner tonight, a lovely, healthy meal prepared with my diet in mind. How incredibly thoughtful! Cate and I enjoyed chatting and laughing before, during and after dinner. She is a new friend, but it feels like we’ve known each other for a long time. We have very similar views of the world and what fun it was to toss ideas and stories back and forth. I know Cate will surprise someone else with the giving jar, and enjoy doing it.  I look forward to our continuing friendship as we journey together. I found out as I was leaving that tomorrow is Cate’s birthday! I love how things work out.

This was such a fun little project, that I think I will create more giving jars to give away.  Steve Maraboli says, “Give freely to the world these gifts of love and compassion. Do not concern yourself with how much you receive in return, just know in your heart it will be returned.”  That captures the essence of giving, doing so without a thought of receiving in return and yet knowing love and goodness will flow back to me in some fashion. It’s not up to me to think about the hows or whens. I am to give freely out of who I am. I am open to give, open to receive, open to life.

Day 19: Pay for the Starbucks Order in the Car Behind Me


This was a simple and yet fun first to do. And it was a great way to finish the Pay It Forward Weekend. After showing property this afternoon, I swung through the drive through of a local Starbucks. The time of day was not exactly peak coffee drinking time but several cars were in line. I trusted that another car would pull in behind me.

I was watching in my rear view mirror as the people in the car ahead of me received their purchase, wondering if I was going to have to go elsewhere to complete this first.  Then a car turned the corner and pulled up behind. A young driver sat at the wheel, bobbing her head to music only she could hear. Perfect!

The guy in the window smiled, in a conspiratorial way, and commented that he loved it when people paid for the purchase of the customer next in line. I smiled in return and exited the parking lot quickly, hoping to be away before the girl behind me cleared the building. Success!

I hope she enjoyed her coffee. And that she will pay it forward when the time feels right for her to do so. I intend to repeat this first, often!

Day 17: Random Notes of Encouragement


This weekend, beginning today at noon, is the 2nd Annual Pay it Forward Weekend, as promoted by a Facebook group on that social media site. This event fits wonderfully with my desire to experience a first every day, and I have three days to come up with ways to anonymously show kindness to others.

For today’s first, I came up with the idea of writing encouraging notes to post on random cars in a retail parking lot. I enlisted the help of my grandson, Dayan. We parked my car in a sea of other vehicles and discussed what encouraging words to write. We each wrote several notes and then something magical happened. Dayan began to draw on each note, beautifully illustrating our words with inspiring designs. I was so moved, I had him do the artwork on all the notes.

Then came the fun part.  I explained to my grandson that we would select cars randomly and carefully tuck the notes under the windshield wipers. I also gave Dayan the option of observing this part if it made him feel uncomfortable. He thought it over briefly and then decided he wanted to move beyond his comfort zone also. Yes! We divided the notes and off we went.

We moved quickly among the cars, letting our hearts guide us to the car whose owners most needed the encouraging words. When we met again a few minutes later, we were laughing, our hands empty and our hearts full. We have no idea how the notes were received. We don’t need to know. We moved as we were inspired to move. Whatever unfolds next, is BEYOND us!