I Paid It Forward

Hey guys, I probably changed a couple of people’s lives tonight. Really.

Recently, someone surprised me with a kindness. It gave me a little breathing room. I can’t think about it without feeling like I owe the universe a big hug.

Because I had already worn myself out exercising, I left the apartment to visit my local inconvenience store. Today was a light day: I had 20,000 steps without taking a “walk.” I don’t get bored, but I do miss the interaction with people sometimes. This evening was one of those times. As I stood near the case of odd corndogs and snacks, a pretty young lady stood at the counter, vainly attempting to get her visa card to work. The clerk was showing her a video of his puppy. It was apparent that both of them were doing the dance of interest, even as the young lady became frustrated. “Try the card again,” the clerk told her. She tried twice more to prepay $10 in gas.

I interrupted them both and said, “Ma’am, I’ll pay for your $10 in gas. In fact, let’s make it $20 if your car holds it. We’ve all been there.” She looked at me in wide-eyed surprise. I pointed at the clerk, “He would want me to.” The clerk smiled a huge smile, realizing that I had shifted my surprise act of generosity to him.

The young lady almost started crying. “That is so nice of you!” I thought she was going to hug me. “Yes, my car will hold $20 of gas. It’s basically on empty.”

I thought of all the times I was poor or needed help. Her wide-eyed features and noticeable relief and gratitude rendered me a bit floorless.

“Then have a great night and pay it forward. It’s really okay.” I smiled at her. She smiled at me, then smiled at the clerk, who watched it unfold. It’s hard to describe how beautiful that smile was, as she reacted to a total stranger giving her such a gesture.

When she exited, the clerk shook my hand and introduced himself. “Ryan,” he said. “That was really cool of you.”

I introduced myself too and then showed him my ID. People often don’t believe my name is X. “Whoa, that’s cool!”

I told him, “You ought to ask her out. She already thinks I paid for her gas because you’re a nice guy. You’re halfway there.”

He smiled, “Yeah, I’ve been wanting to ask her out for quite a while.”

Y’all know me, so you know I couldn’t leave it there.

“Then ask her out,” I said. “It’s obvious she likes you. I’m 54. I’m telling you that you should take 100% of the shots you want when you’re young. The worst that could happen is she’ll say no. The best is that you will have a great story to tell about how you got the nerve to ask her out. Me.”

The clerk said, “That’s some wisdom right there. Thank you.”

We both laughed as I grabbed my bag of Cheetos Puffs and left.

As I started the car, I decided to forget the rules of life and social etiquette. I rolled down my window (yes, my car has actual rollers) and drove over near the white car at the gas pumps. The young lady looked over at me.

“I know this is awkward, but the clerk likes you and has wanted to ask you out for quite a while. He’s a great guy. Have a great night, young lady.”

She smiled so big that I thought her face might shatter. “Thanks! And thank you.”

I drove away, glad that I’d decided to leave the apartment for a dumb snack. And ignored the ridiculous social expectations of perhaps going too far. I can thank Lexapro for making me more “me.” Where life and love are concerned, there is no step too far.

I was glad I’d been able to help someone randomly.

I was glad that someone had helped me to be able to.

And that it was likely that the clerk and the young lady with the defunct visa card might be able to overcome the ridiculous shyness and distance that so often separates people who are interested in one another. There is no reason for such attraction not to find purchase in people’s lives.

Somehow, I think they will.

And I love that I might be at the nexus of their story, however it unfolds.

More than that, though, I would love for them both to take a risk and find out how their mutual interest might blossom.

What a life.

Thank you, universe, and thank you, kind souls who made it possible.

I’ll say a little prayer for love, for kindness, and for humanity.

And for Ryan and the nameless pretty young lady who needed a little bit of help tonight.

Love, X

2 thoughts on “I Paid It Forward”

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