After writing this post and inviting a few friends to plan a group Pay It Forward gathering at a local gas station (none of whom responded with much of any interest), I decided to, for now, go it alone.
After dropping our daughter off for kindergarten and our middle son off at preschool, our youngest son and I had a couple hours to kill. With nearly a full tank of gas, myself, I didn’t really need to pull into the gas station on the way home. I was hungry–having skipped breakfast in order to get out the door on time for school drop off; the morning air was cold and the inside of my car much warmer–as we are still recovering from the early winter snow storm that dropped upwards of four feet of the white stuff on some neighboring towns just to the east of us; and I truthfully had no reason to pull into the gas station on my way back home.
But I did.
I just needed to try this “Pay It Forward” thing for myself, as I indicated I was motivated to do in Sunday’s post.
After topping off my gas tank I stood around, waiting for someone else to pull into the uncharacteristically empty gas station. I waited for several minutes–watching people zip in and out of the adjacent convenience store on their way to work.
Then a young kid, wearing an orange Idaho State sweatshirt pulled up in front of my car; our vehicles nose-to-nose. As he pulled his wallet from his back pocket and prepared to open the gas tank door on his truck, I called out to him,
“Today’s your lucky day!”
(ok, I realize now, that this statement in and of itself could certainly give off the wrong idea)
He looked at me bewildered–the young woman in the cab of the kid’s truck eyeing me suspiciously.
“I’m paying for your gas today.” I handed him my credit card. “Here you go. Slide this through.”
He answered, still caught off guard, “seriously? Why?”
I could see his brain working a mile a minute. Why is this woman–a stranger I’ve never met before–offering to pay for my gas? What’s the catch?
“Pay It Forward. I’m doing something nice for you today. You do something nice for someone else sometime down the line.”
The guy took my card, slid it through the payment panel at the pump, inserted the Diesel nozzel into the tank opening, and proceeded to fill his truck with fuel.
As I returned to my car to check on our son who was happily reading his older sister’s Strawberry Shortcake Sticker Stories book, I caught the scene in the cab of the truck opposite my car: the young woman had a confused look on her face, and was obviously asking the kid in the Idaho State sweatshirt what this was all about–why was this strange woman filling up her…friend’s…boyfriend’s…brother’s…co-workers…gas tank?
I saw the kid shrugging his shoulders, smilng shyly, and just being content with it.
Waiting for the receipt, I chatted idly with the guy. He said he was on his way to work where he lays tile in luxury houses and vacation homes near the Big Sky ski resort. He told me that, of the three general contractors he tends to do work for, that only one of them had a new project starting next week. I took this to mean that, if his contracted employers didn’t have a bunch of homes waiting to be built–as was the case here in my part of Montana less than a year ago– that this kid didn’t have jobs lined up, waiting to be fulfilled.
The pump shut off, the guy pulled the receipt from the payment panel, we told each other to have a good day, and I drove myself and our son home.
I don’t feel like a hero and I’m not trying to pretend that I am one. I didn’t get a warm-all-over feeling on the inside and out from performing this simple task. But I enjoyed seeing the look on the guy’s face when I told him of my plans to buy him a tank of gas. I’m pleased with the potential that the kid will remember the stranger’s act of thoughtfullness that allowed him to keep an extra hundred bucks in his pocket this morning. But mostly, I just hope he Pays It Forward for someone else some day. That is, afterall, the whole point.