Pay It Forward

This week I promised some thoughts about political parties. It’ll have to wait. I ache to write about “The Mooch.” Not yet. I’m mad as hell about how the transgenders in the military issue was handled. Not today. I have 6 column subjects in my “to do” pile for when these others get done. There they remain. Why? Because something happened this week to me that was so sweet, so simple, so natural, so good that I thought, at least for a moment, there was hope for the world. That story is what follows.

I’m in a local Starbucks having a meeting. There was more meeting than there was liquid in my Starbuck’s mug, so I got up for a refill. In front of me was a woman who just couldn’t get it together. She couldn’t decide between this and that. Then she couldn’t get her bag open or then get her purse out of her bag, or then get her money out of her purse. The change eluded her. All of this is being done while she is listing towards the floor during the fight with her satchel and all the while she is talking to I’m not sure who.

The endlessly patient barista looks at me, see my emblazoned travel mug and says, “What kind of coffee would you like?” I replied, “None. I drink tea and love that you guys have bought Teavana” (Ed note: Starbucks just announced they are closing all the mall-based Teavana stores. Boo!) “If it’s possible to become addicted to tea,” I said, “I’m addicted to shaken, iced green tea. In fact I’ve taken to making it at home and drink at least a quart a day. That’s what I’d like in whatever size will fill my travel mug.”

Still waiting on “fumble fingers,” he decided to wait on me too because a line was building. As he took my order, I, ever looking for the bargain, mentioned to him that some places give free refills when you’re sporting their own mug. He said, “We don’t do that, but I can give you a discount on what you’ve bought (which was a small, yes shaken, iced green tea.).” “Great!” replied I. What does that come to?”

He grabbed the calculator, did a little tap dance on its face, looked at me and said, “Ten cents.” Meanwhile our listing friend had straightened up, settled up, and moved on.  “Hmmmmmmmmmmmmm.” I said jokingly. “Whatever am I going to do with that windfall…? I’ll have to give some thought as to how to spend it.”

Then it hit me and I mused out loud, “You know I don’t even get to keep that one thin dime. In fact, I don’t get to keep much of any change. The pennies go in my wife’s shoe (a glass piece in which I park her pennies that go into her little ginger bread house bank), nickles go to my god-daughter, quarters to my grandson because I started saving for him after his older sister and I need to catch him up, and the dimes go to my grand daughter, Dylan. I started that when she was born. My wife and I call it, “The Dimes for Dylan Program.” Then remembering how the pocket book lady had held me up, I said to him, “That’s probably more than you need to know, and want to know. I’m just babbling. I’ll go back to my meeting and you help the next customer.”

As these words tumbled from my mouth, I noticed that my barista had begun to list. He was leaning over to the cash drawer and talking to his manager. I heard something about, “I’m taking….cash drawer….here’s the money….” He straightens up, hands me my change and with it a roll of dimes!

I am rarely speechless. Trust me on that. But I was. Then I said, “Mark” (I heard someone call him that, but truthfully it could also be Marc, which is how we spell it for our own son) what’s this?” 

He: “Dimes”

Me: “What for?”

He: “Dylan.”

Me: Listen, that’s very sweet and generous, but totally unnecessary. Besides, I’m sure you don’t make enough money here to be giving out rolls of coins to your customers. And I handed it back. And of course he refused it, saying, “Say Hi to Dylan for me.” His shift was up, he did a sharp left turn towards the back, and was gone. I was flummoxed. I called after him, “I’m putting most of this back into the tip jar,” grabbed a wad of singles, and stuffed them in.” Then out the door I saw him go, sort of medium height and build, mid-20’s I’d say, wearing a quarter face beard (Sorry about the descriptive ID, I used to work for the Sheriff’s department….). I was left with a mug of cold tea, a roll of dimes, and a wonderful memory.

I went back to my table and told my table mate what had just happened and she said, “Wow! You know, now you have to pay it forward.” And I have. I had a promotional coupon for a bag of good dog food. That’s going to the animal shelter, not our dog.

I’ve let slide a meeting with a woman who started an organization that provides beds to children whose families can’t afford them. It seems thousands of youngsters bed down in Palm Beach County every night sans a bed! I will call her to volunteer.

I googled Starbucks and wrote up this story in a letter to the company president ending with, “I’ve been an executive for 40 plus years. This kid’s got the “right stuff.” Someone needs to go find him, train him, and promote him because you’ll find no better in the job market for the future of Starbucks.”

And now I’m telling you.

The most important thing about this story is that it showed me that in spite of the effluent flowing from the mouth of a White House official, in spite of the meanness with which so many things in the government are being handled, in spite of the nastiness that is oozing across the nation, in spite of N. Korea being within 18 months of nuking us etc etc etc there are still people, young people, who can and do make our lives a little better, a little happier because they remind us that there is a Golden Rule and no matter what’s going on we can always take a moment to heed it.

For all that, “thank you Mark, or Marc.”

Now wasn’t that better than reading about political parties? And I feel better having written about it instead of them.


If you like this piece you’ll like, “Mirth, Wind, and Ire–Essays on Contemporary Social an Political Issues with a Little Humor Thrown In.” It’s available for $2.99, or on your Kindle or Nook. 

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