It would probably be fair to say that most everyone is aware of the Golden Rule, “Do Unto Others as You Would have Them Do Unto You” or at least may have heard of the concept of ‘Paying It Forward’.
The following story of Paying It Forward appeared in Chicken Soup for the Country Soul in 1996, written by Jonnie Barnett and Roy Lee.
Bryan Anderson was driving home from the shop where he worked. It was a cold, early evening. He passed a Mercedes parked by the roadside and he could see that it had a flat tire. A woman, maybe the driver of the car, stood outside the car, shivering in the cold, apparently hoping someone would stop by to help her. Bryan decided to stop, so he parked his battered old pick up a short distance in front of the sparkling new Mercedes and approached the woman.
Bryan was a handyman and dressed like one; he looked poor and dirty. To the woman, he did not look safe. The woman observed him carefully as he approached. She was very apprehensive thinking to herself, Is this guy going to hurt me? Can I trust him? But the fact is that she needed someone to help her.
Bryan immediately sensed her apprehension, so he decided to try to put her at ease. He gave her a warm smile and politely introduced himself, “Hello, I am Bryan Anderson. I see that your car has a flat tire and I would like to help you.”
The woman eased up a little and said that she was just passing through after a long drive from St. Louis. She had been hoping for help for more than an hour and was therefore grateful that he stopped. Bryan replied, “It looks like an ordinary flat tire. I can have it replaced in a few minutes, and you should be back on the road right away.” He suggested that she stay inside the car where it was warmer and more comfortable while he worked on the tire.
Bryan crawled under the car, looked for a good position where to place the jack, and tried to fix it firmly. In doing so, he accidentally rubbed his hand against the concrete of the road causing some scratches on his hand. Soon, after a few minutes and a few more scratches, he had the tire replaced. As he was putting back the lug nuts, the woman rolled down the window and thanked him again for his help.
He closed the trunk after returning the jack, the old tire and the other tools. The woman then asked him how much she owed him for his services. Bryan told her he could not accept any payment. He was just trying to help someone who needed his help.
At first the woman insisted on paying him, reminding him that she waited a long time for somebody to help her, and that she did not know what would have happened to her if he did not stop for her. In her mind, she knew that she would have been willing to pay any amount to this guy who not only fixed her car but also got her out of a potentially dangerous situation, thinking of many awful things that could have happened to her.
Bryan again refused saying that there were plenty of times in the past when he himself needed assistance and there were always others who stopped by to help him without asking to be paid. He told the lady, “If you really want to pay, maybe what you can do is to stop when somebody needs your help, think of me and this moment, and then help others.” The woman nodded, smiled warmly and said, “Thank you again, Mr. Bryan Anderson.”
Bryan waited for her to start her car and waved goodbye when she drove off. It was a cold evening, his hands were hurting, and he was feeling tired from his efforts. But he felt good inside him, knowing he helped somebody.
After driving on for a while, the lady decided she needed something to warm her. She still has some distance to go before she was finally home. So she stopped by a roadside cafe. The place did not look very nice, but she was able to order something to eat. A waitress attended to her, smiling warmly as she did so. The woman could see that the waitress was probably on her last weeks of pregnancy. But despite having to go from table to table and staying on her feet all the time, she still managed to be cheerful and attentive to the customers. The woman, observing the waitress serving all the customers, could not help but remember Bryan Anderson. She was deeply touched by the example of two people who obviously did not have much in life, but still got to help others cheerfully.
The woman paid the waitress a one-hundred-dollar bill for her order, but before the waitress could bring back the change, she saw that the customer had already left. Then when she came back to clean the table, she saw a handwritten note: “Thank you for being so nice. And I can see that you could use some help, so here’s something for you, from somebody who herself has recently been helped by a kind stranger. I hope you will let the chain of kindness continue on.” Under the note were four more $100 bills.
The waitress silently cried and closed her eyes in thanksgiving, for she really needed the money for the forthcoming delivery of her baby.
After work that night, the waitress went home. Her husband was already asleep, apparently tired, she thought, after a hard day at work. As she climbed into bed beside him, she thought of the kind woman who gave her the money, and her faith in people and in God was strengthened. She knew everything would be all right. She looked at her husband with loving eyes, knowing that he too had been worrying about the fast approaching delivery. She noticed some scratches on his hand, obvious signs of hard toil. She lightly kissed his hands, whispering, “Don’t you worry, Bryan Anderson. Everything will be all right.”
God often works in mysteries ways and sometimes puts people in our lives whether it be for a Reason, a Season or a Lifetime and it always serves a greater good; one that can benefit all involved. It often doesn’t “seem” that way but if we simply look with an open mind and heart, it allows us to “see” for ourselves just how real and true that is.
What we put into the lives of others very often is returned into our own.