Thursday, May 24, 2018
One of America's Great Newspapers ~ Toledo, Ohio

Mary Alice Powell


Brighten someone’s day with kindness

It remains a mystery whether the kind person who paid for my breakfast was practicing the Pay It Forward policy or just a nice guy who was acknowledging a woman eating alone.

The surprise complimentary breakfast last week at the Red Star on Lewis Avenue was the second time a waitress had announced, “Your breakfast is paid for.” The first was in November at Bob Evans in Adrian, and like the Toledo incident, was totally unexpected.

Was it someone who knew me? Was it an early Valentine from a stranger? Forty years ago I could have been chosen for my size 10 appearance, but those days are only in photo albums. Maybe I smiled at the strangers who picked up my tab. Whether good or bad, I do have a habit of smiling, especially when I am alone.

Did I look down and out and was out to spend my last bit of change for oatmeal and a cup of coffee on a cold day? It is probably not nice to wonder if the stranger would have paid for a steak or lobster dinner.

Or, let’s forget all of the above and believe the Pay it Forward philosophy, as presented in the 2000 movie, is fermenting in a world racked by greed and killings. If that is the case, it is my duty to pass on a good deed to a third person.

In Pay it Forward, the film based on a novel of the same name by Catherine Ryan, 11-year-old Trevor McKinney was given a social studies assignment to devise a plan that would change the world. Trevor’s plan was the networking of good deeds, be it ever so simple as a smile or buying breakfast for a stranger.

The plan may not change the world, but it certainly can make people happy and brighten a stranger’s day, as it did mine, and will do so for others as I pass on good deeds that can require little effort and often, no cost. Kind words may be enough to encourage someone or bring a smile to their face.

As Mother Teresa said: “Kind words can be short and easy to speak, but their echoes are truly endless.”

The list of following ideas is from Spread, a nonprofit organization that promotes the Pay it Forward idea. What better time is there to express kindness and love than on Valentine’s Day?

Pay someone a compliment.

Help someone with his or her groceries or bags.

Call a friend randomly to let them know you are thinking about them.

Bring a treat to work to share with co-workers.

Open the door for someone.

Give a homeless person your leftovers when you leave a restaurant.

Drop off a toy or game at a shelter or hospital.

Take flowers to a hospital ward with instructions they are for someone who does not have visitors.

Donate a warm lap blanket to a rest home.

Reach for an item on a top shelf for someone in a store.

Carry out a neighbor’s trash or return the empty can to their house.

Give up your seat for someone who needs it more.

Pay for the food for the person who is behind you in the fast food drive-through line.

Pay for someone’s groceries.

Buy the ticket or tickets for the people behind you in the movie line.

Put money in a vending machine as a surprise to the next person.

Buy a lottery ticket and give it to a stranger.

Keep extra blankets, gloves, and hats in the trunk of the car to give to needy people in cold weather.

Or, do as I am doing today. Send Valentines to the people I didn’t send Christmas cards to with handwritten notes and copies of this column to explain Pay it Forward.

Mary Alice Powell is a retired Blade food editor.

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