A few Autumns ago I was living in Ocean City, NJ. I ended up having to move out of my place of residency due to Superstorm Sandy because it totally destroyed the downstairs of my dwelling, rendering it unlivable. This story, however, is not about that.
While living alone, I would regularly misplace things (a byproduct of living with ADD). One night, in particular, I was having an especially difficult case of the brain farts and misplaced my wallet, but I did not notice when I went to bed that night. When I woke up the next morning, however, I did realize I'd lost my expensive, but, more importantly, meaningful gift I'd bought for myself in France so I could always have a token of Paris with me where I went. Of course panic set in, and I called every single place I'd been to the previous night and afternoon - to no success. As the weather was nice enough that time of year, I'd left my front door open and with the screen door closed in order to allow a cool breeze to flow throughout the house. While running around in my panic, shuffling through papers and scouring every inch of the modest home, I received an unexpected knock. It turns out a woman and her husband (in their late twenties) had found my wallet the night before on their evening stroll and had noticed my light was on so they knew my house was occupied. I must have dropped my wallet getting out of my car because they found it lying a few inches from the curb where my car had previously been parked. They had gone out of their way the next day to see if I was home so they could kindly return it to me. They also accepted no sort of cash reward, only that I pay it forward.
The woman believed strongly in this act of "paying it forward" because she, herself, had lost a wallet her one time she went to Bonnaroo. I invited the couple in for tea where she retold her story to me: her panic, her tears, her frustration - an experience I had just lived through myself (though in a much shorter time frame). While dancing at Bonnaroo she had dropped her wallet, and after checking Lost and Found multiple times over the next day, accepted that she would never see her wallet again (a gift from her Grandmother who had recently passed, if I remember correctly). She recounted to me the ticket stubs and photo booth pictures she kept inside that she was more upset to lose than anything because licenses could be renewed, credit cards cancelled, and really, what was $200 cash in the grand scheme of everything. She and I bonded over the extreme sentimental value we each had over our stuffed-to-the-brim wallets while her husband rolled his eyes. It turns out that about a week after she'd gotten home from the festival, she received a package in the mail. Inside of the small, padded USPS envelope was her wallet with everything inside - even the $200 in cash. Along with the wallet, there was a note. I don't remember word-for-word what she told me the note said, but I do know that it was from an older woman who had also once lost a wallet. I know it said that she'd lost a wallet once and someone was kind enough to return it to the address listed on her driver's license, less the $20 she'd had inside, but with her photos and small memory tokens she'd stuffed inside. She had said she'd left the cash inside because she'd noticed the photo booth pictures with the young man and that she wanted the couple to use the money to treat themselves to something nice. The note was signed. I think her name was Anne. But instead of ending with "Thank you," or "God bless," she simply ended it with "Pay it forward - Anne."
So as cheesy as it is, and I'm allowed to be incredibly cheesy because it's the holidays, why don't we all try harder to pay forward any small kindnesses we can this upcoming year. 2016 was hard for a lot of people, and things usually don't get better right away, so let's do everything we can in our own individual lives to make things better. Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, Happy New Year.
Pay it forward.