Paying It Forward is a very simple concept that has been around for a little while now, where you pay for the drink of the person behind you in line. It’s a sweet and simple idea that stems from the Random Acts of Kindness initiative, and has even been taken further by some people, who are now putting Post-It notes on their wall and feeding the homeless. I think it’s a fantastic idea, especially when used in the right way.

Unfortunately, this Random Act of Kindness has been tainted for me after a rather unpleasant experience in a quaint little coffee shop the other day. I had my drink paid forward for me, with the person donating a couple of dollars. I happen to like what most people call “fancy-ass pretentious drinks”, so $2 doesn’t cover the cost of my drink. No problem. They did something nice and helped me out a little. I hand over the money to buy the rest of my drink and pay forward another $2. I walk over to the condiments table to grab a spoon and upon hearing what’s happening behind me, decide to stop and listen.

Server: Hello ma’am! What would you like today?

Woman: Coffee.

(At this point I bristle. Working in a bakery means costumer service, so it annoys me when people are bluntly rude to the person just trying to be kind.)

Server: Okay, no problem! That’ll be dollars.

Woman: No it won’t. I want this. That’s dollars.

Server: Yes, but the person behind you payed it forward $2. So you can take $2 off the cost of your coffee!

Woman: Well I don’t see the point of that. I’m just going to feel obliged to do all this pay it forward crap too now. So I might as well just pay for the full price of the coffee.

At this point, she slams the money on the table, grabs her coffee and walks out. I notice that she has, in fact, put the extra $2 there. Whether it was to pay it forward or because she was determined to pay the full price of her coffee, I don’t know. It went to the pay it forward jar, so I guess it doesn’t matter.

I mean, she had a point (although she didn’t need to be so rude about it). If we all get given $2 towards our coffee and we all feel obligated to donate $2 to the cause, why not just pay full price of the coffee?

You can look at it that way, sure. But I think it’s amazing, the Pay It Forward movement. Because even though I still spent the same amount of money, I got to feel really happy when I got $2 off my coffee. And I got to really pretty damn good about myself when I payed $2 forward myself.

Not to mention, not everyone can afford a cup of coffee. So I might just feel a little good about it, but there could be someone who comes in after me who gets a $2 cup of coffee without using money that they need desperately for other things. It could be the difference between the minimum crappy cup of coffee and one with a little more value to someone that usually just has to make do.

It’s nice to pay it forward, but you don’t need to feel obliged to. So in future, if someone does something nice for you, instead of thinking of what an inconvenience it is to you because now you have to do something nice too, just appreciate the stranger that paid for part of your cup of coffee.

(This post was written before changes to my blog, when all posts where categorized by “sparks”. Any and all references to Katy/Everyday/Travelling/Life Sparks or Sparkszine are as a result of this)

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