I was at the grocery store the other day, waiting fairly patiently in line when the lady in front of me started to select certain items (that had already been rung up) to put back. She was short on cash.
I absolutely hate that feeling. I can remember back to when I was in college, scrounging for what little money I had at the time. I can recall several moments where I too stood at the register, nervous, embarassed, turning beet red and sweating because suddenly, I swear it feelt like they cranked up the heat in there (or was it just me?).
As she stood there, frantically searching her change purse for more coin (preferably the bigger, silver ones and not those pesky copper ones, which she seemed to have in abundance) and counting them one by one, several thoughts ran through my head.
Because I sympathized I made sure my body language exuded that I was chill and in no way frustrated for having to wait. More importantly there was a really strong urge to help. But isn't that intruding? Would she be offended? (I certainly did not want to insult her.)
Then I remembered how people pay it forward all the time. I have a friend who, I swear, always gets a free Caramel Macchiato each time she drives through the Starbucks drive-thru because the person in front of her has very nicely, paid for her.
So can't I do the same thing here?
I guess in the Starbucks drive-thru scenario there's an element of anonymity which makes it a lot less weird.
So what did I do?
I told the cashier to add the discarded items to my bill.
It felt weird, but instead of asking the woman if she needed help I just told the cashier to add them to mine and I then I gave her the bag.
So now I'm thinking instead of paying it forward at Starbucks (where people are there to buy a luxury) I'm totally going to start paying it forward at places where it counts - where people are struggling to make ends meet.