Pay it forward teaches lesson

Published 9:28 pm Tuesday, September 9, 2014


The boy seemed to have walked straight off a movie set was my first thought as we approached the grocery store checkout line.

His plaid button up shirt duck-tailed out the back of his pants, which were held up across his thin shoulders by faded black suspenders. Dusty black tennis shoes covered his feet and met the ragged hems of his pants.

He couldn’t have been more than 13 or so and dressed nothing like one would expect from a teenager. In his hand, he held a clear pack of deli cut lunchmeat.

For a while we all waited patiently as the cashier made her way through the line of customers.

A polite boy, he helped me load my groceries on the to conveyor belt when it became clear and said, “You’re welcome” when I thanked him.

As the woman behind the register scanned his only purchase, he dug deep into his pocket and pulled out a wad of bills and some loose change.

“That’ll be $5.35,” she told him.

The grand total in his pocket left him a dollar or so short, and the panic cut across his face.

“I got this,” I told them both.

He stuttered out a thanks, and her questioning look asked what she should do.

“Hand that back to him,” I told her. “Just add it on my total.”

His smile was reward enough for my good deed, and as he walked out the door, she and I agreed he must have been traveling with the church group we saw in the parking lot.

Throughout it all, my youngest was very quiet and held her question until we got to the car – a fact I’m most grateful for considering she has no filter. If it comes across her brain, it comes out her mouth – and of course, it’s not always the nicest of comments either.

She asked why I did what I did, and I had to explain to her that not everyone is as blessed as our family – that $5 may not seem like a lot to us, but to some, it’s the difference between going to bed hungry or having something in their belly.

It may be a concept that we all need reminding of – I know I did. We all get caught in the “must haves” that we forget what it truly means to want for the basics in life.

I’m grateful for that gentle reminder.