So I went through the Starbucks drive thru this morning as I often do before work. Ok, not “often,” so much as “always.” In fact, not even “always” but “if I don’t walk in with a cup of coffee in my hand you do NOT want me to be here.” Yes, I know that’s excessive. I’m aware of how absurd an expense that is. It’s my only vice, ok? Get off my back… the monkey is complaining.
Ahem. So I was fully prepared to pony up the $3.48 for my tall soy extra hot light whip mocha, except that I really pay $3.14 because I sold my soul to Starbucks in exchange for a “registered” pre-pay card that gives me a discount. I’m frugal like that. But when I pulled up to the window, the barista handed me my drink and said “the person in front of you paid for your drink! Have a great day!” I pulled out, looking for my mysterious benefactor, intending to smile and wave. But he/she was already gone.
I thought of that bumper sticker that I used to see a lot:
Buying a drink for a stranger who doesn’t get to thank you is random all right. Maybe even senselessly beautiful. On the other hand, my well-developed inner cynic said “Dude, you should’ve spent that $3.48 buying a McPancake Special for a homeless person instead of on an overpriced drink for an over-privileged minivan driver.”
Then I thought about that hideous movie with the Sixth Sense kid, based on an equally sappy book by Catherine Ryan Hyde:
Pay It Forward means when someone does something nice, they don’t expect anything in return. But when something nice is done for you, you “pay it forward” by doing something nice for someone else (or maybe it was three nice things for three people), without expecting anything back. It’s a great idea, really. Too bad the book/movie sucked.
Now, since a random act of kindness has been committed upon me, I wonder how I ought to Pay It Forward. I could play the same trick of paying for the drink of the person behind me at Starbucks, but that seems unimaginative.
What should I do?