Coffee Saves the World Again

To know the concept of “pay it forward,” I hear, all you have to do is drink expensive coffee and spend no time out of your car to get it. It happened again today, at Starbucks on 303 in East Eastern East Bremerton. (Technically, that’s Central Kitsap, but I answered the phone.)

Well, that’s not true if you wrote this letter, which said this:

“While it’s nice to buy a stranger a cup of coffee, Paying it Forward involves doing significant good deeds. If all that coffee money was spent instead on someone who needed it, that would be Paying it Forward.”

Here’s how it works. Someone decides to buy the next person’s order. That next person, it turns out, is you. You get to the window, ready to pay for your somethingiatto and the attendant tells you that the woman in the Pacer who just left paid for your order. “Cool!” you think. Here’s where it ends, though. The attendant then asks, “Would you like to pay for the next person’s order?”

Shannon Bray of Bremerton was the 180th person in the “Pay it Forward” line today at Starbucks. She thought it was pretty darned neat. In fact, “neat” was her word. “Especially with the economy, it’s really neat.”

Brynn Grimley, formerly of “The CK Beat,” said around the holidays she was about 180th in one of these, and thinks another time the woman in front of her broke the chain.

She takes some issue with the letter writer above, because she really does need the coffee in the morning.

I called the Starbucks folks and they said the thing ended at 183, which they said might be a local record. No one really keeps track, though. I say the record is 211. Go ahead. Disprove me.

Brynn and I talked about the nuance between this pay it forward routine and what the letter writer proposed, that you do something similar to what was done in the movie with the kid who who was Forrest Gump‘s son and sees dead people. In that movie, Pay it Forward, the kid does a good deed and tells people to pay it back by doing something good for three other people and telling them to do the same, paying it forward instead of paying it back.

OK, so maybe buying a coffee in a cup and in a cake isn’t the same as fixing someone’s bike or giving them your ticket to the inauguration, but Brynn said it was pretty nice when it happened to her. That’s probably the point, don’t you think.

If you focus on the money, then there are clear winners and losers. Bray ordered a coffee and a treat, but the person behind her only bought a cup, so she came out ahead financially.

If you don’t focus on the money, though, you get surprised by someone’s generosity. Then you get the opportunity to continue the good will. Maybe you feel guilted into it, but you don’t have to feel that way. Today about 183 people had that choice. I bet more than half of them talked about it with others. I bet a few of those others will decide to do something nice. It could happen.

3 thoughts on “Coffee Saves the World Again

  1. It is a nice gesture, but nicer when it is unexpected.

    I’ve stood in a Starbucks line (no line) at an airport once I think for an Americana but I think unexpected kindness happens every day, in different ways and spreads. No doubt about it.

    The amount of money isn’t the point but people do what they can, when they can this year, next year…when they are able to do a kindness for another person.

    Asking to help a person roll a grocery cart out to their car and unload it is an extreme kindness worth more than money. For a busy person to notice someone might need assistance and ask to help is precious time spent and I’m told, the feeling the busy one gets is one of elation and changes their perception of time and worth.

    It is all neat. Good word.
    Sharon O’Hara

  2. This reminds me of the fad (and book about) Random Acts of Kindness and Senseless Acts of Beauty. I had slightly forgotten about it.

    Every day I drive to the Poulsbo Post Office. Almost every day there is a line of cars coming down the hill when I am ready to leave. Most of the time, someone stops and waves me into the line. What a lovely feeling it gives me! When I lived in Silverdale and used that Post Office, the same thing would happen there. That kind of thing makes me glad to live here!

    I was in a car with a relative some years ago, crossing a toll bridge in New England. My relative paid her toll, the toll for the car behind her (her inlaws) and for the strangers in the third car. She had formed a habit of paying for two cars every time she went across the bridge, as a Random Act of Kindness. She wanted to pay for her inlaws behind her and still do another Random Act. Later, she was scolded by her inlaws for this gesture, as they saw it as needlessly throwing away her money to pay for strangers to cross. I think she is a happy person and her inlaws are not so happy.

    This kind of thing could be a lot of fun if we let go of our notions of “fair.”

  3. I was in one of these line. While it’s not the same as say, working at a homeless shelter or donating a months salary to charity, it does spark in you the same spirit. I had ordered four drinks at a total of $14. the man in front of me paid for all of it. Not a portion, all of it. I in turn only had to pay for the $3 latte the women behind me ordered. Of course I then told everyone I know about the kindness of the man in the car in front of me. Because of the giving spirit I was in, I later paid the woman behind me in line at the grocery store’s bill for her baby formula. Do you see where one contrived act of kindness can and does turn into a real \pay it forward?\ Lately I have noticed people being kinder to each other. usually going in or coming from Starbucks. People hold doors for you when your hand are full. That sort of neighborly thing. Simple, but kind and very much appreciated. So maybe Starbucks and the Random Acts of Kindness Linda referred to is reminding us all to pay attention and be kind to strangers. They just may pay for your coffee or your toll one day. Until then, think about how happy a simple gesture on our part can make someone else.

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