Let’s Carry on the Spirit of Pay It Backwards

Meet the customers of Starbucks, who are getting into the holiday spirit.  More and more people are “paying it backward”, meaning they are paying for the order of the person behind them.  In Bloomington, Illinios, Starbucks customers paid it backward for more than three hours last Tuesday.

Starbucks customers started to pay it backward
Starbucks customers started to pay it backward

Pretty cool, given the tough economic times.  But then again, those persons still willing to pay Starbucks’ prices for coffee are probably doing okay. More surprising is the fact that coffee buyers would be in such good spirits.  Most of the people I know who haven’t had their first cup in the morning can be somewhat grumpy. I digress.  

Random acts of kindness are one of the real joys of living, whether you are giving or receiving.  Imagine, you’re lost in your thoughts for the day, maybe stressed about something, and you find out that the person ahead of you in the drive through paid for your order and wished you a Merry Christmas.  Yeah, that would make anyone feel good, touched by a random act of kindness.  So, you may feel compelled to buy the order of the person behind you, so that person can enjoy the pleasant surprise you just received. It’s a nice story.

But now the problem is that the media has spilled the beans on paying it backward.  A critical element of being touched by a random act of kindness is the sheer unexpected surprise.  However, now with the evening news (and bloggers like me) blabbing about this holiday trend, the surprise will be less so. 

My encouragement then, is to focus on the random acts of kindness and not the means by which we deliver such joy to others.  I’m going to bring a blanket for a certain homeless man whom I pass often in the mornings.  I’m going to smile at the uncertain tourists on the bus.  In fact, I’m going to make a list of random acts of kindness that I want to complete between now and the end of the year. The spirit of “paying it backward” should be kept alive. 

In these times of uncertainty, kindness is especially warming, gives confidence in each other and the human kind. Please join me in making that list.  And thanks to all of you who paid it backward and reminded me the natural goodness of the human heart.