Pay it Forward
Setting an Example of Kindness
article by Cindy G. Foust
Does anyone out there ever read the news or watch a news channel and get really sad? Depressed? Worried? Seriously, watching the news really substantiates that we live in a world full of strife and evil. I often write about the role models our children are surrounded by or how much influence the “world” has on our younger generation. Yeah, it’s pretty scary out there, but just about the time you give up on any flicker of goodness in mankind, something happens – something that restores your faith in the fellow man. And it’s ironic, since I write a column for children, something that gives you a perfect storyline for a children’s column.
That something for me happened just over a week ago. In case any of our readers are interested, my son, that I frequently love to write about, plays football for an area high school, and his playoff success had our family traveling to Destrahan to watch a semi-final game. Let me start by saying that a future column will be on the importance of supporting ALL area teams and supporting ALL players (especially on the team you are cheering for), even when they make an error. As my son so eloquently put it, “Mom, I might throw an interception, fumble the football or miss my read (whatever the cat hair that means), BUT, I’m not doing it on purpose!” Thank you, son, I think I will tattoo that on my back for next season, just in case anyone thinks you are playing for the other team, in some covert football operation, but, as usual, I digress.
No, my intended subject matter this month, quite simply has little to do with football and more of this – honesty will always be the best policy. To get our readers on board, we’ve all been on that highway traveling down to your child’s game, in high anticipation of a great meal in South Louisiana and a great win by your team. Close your eyes for a moment, as you remember that rest stop you must take, about an hour from your destination, when your bladder forces you to make a pit stop (that kind of sounds like a commercial for Depends). Oh, it’s always the hurry and the scurry to race into the convenience store, anxious to get to the urinal (sadly, the longer I am married to my husband, the more I sound like him, and that’s not always a good thing), and perhaps grab a bag of Hot Flaming Cheetoes or an extra large bag of Skittles, you know, for sharing. Suddenly, you and your caravan (we travel in packs in my neck of the woods) are back on the highway, discussing everything from how you will order your shrimp to what offense you think the other team will run (admittedly, I don’t know the offense from the defense in football, but hey, it sounds like something you would discuss on the way to a football game). Then it happens; your mother’s cell phone rings. “What? Yes, this is Ruth Gist. Yes, I did take my wallet in the Kangaroo. What? Are you kidding me? Yes, yes, please take it to the front cashier. Oh my goodness, you are so kind to call; we will be right back.” HUH? (My mother obviously doesn’t realize we are in the middle of the causeway and the only way to get to the other side is to Dukes of Hazard it over the median.)
Yes, you guessed it. My mother left her wallet (which, incidentally, on this particular evening, could have made Wells Fargo a loan) in the urinal at the Kangaroo. Holy bladders, Batman, we’ve got to turn around. For you see, my husband happens to love his mother-in-law, quite honestly, more than he loves me, so risking life and limb, he starts looking for the next exit. Our confused caravan followers made the exit with us and watched as we rolled down the window and screamed at them (why we didn’t just call and tell them what we were doing still remains a mystery) that we were turning around to get back to the “loaded with cash” wallet.
This is the part of the story that you should not try at home, but my husband had but one intention, and that was to put on his Robo Cop face and watch the speedometer of that Hyundai Santa Fe reach its top potential. Racing past cars, we did; weaving in and out of traffic, we did; yelling (okay, that’s probably too mild) at vehicles that tried to thwart our mission, we did…flashers on, crash helmets on, my mom in the backseat, desperately trying to get “Kathleen” back on the phone. Our hearts sank. Kathleen had started counting the cold hard cash and decided to enjoy her lucky day of finding a wallet in the toilet and made away with it. She wouldn’t take my mom’s call. It kept going straight to her voicemail! On two wheels we flew into the Kangaroo parking lot. My mom and Scott (he decides he needs to escort her into the store, you know, in case any big muscles were needed) jump from the car before it’s even in park and race into the store. I, on the other hand, stay put.
I, the writer of this column, who is never at a loss for words, stares straight into the eyes of our “Kathleen.” Yes, as calm as can be, smoking her Camel with no filter, with her Harley Davidson jacket, chain wallet and leather gloves, there stood the person who would render this writer speechless, “Kathleen.” Kathleen calmly observed my mom and my husband jump from the moving vehicle and opened mother’s wallet to compare the license with my mom’s face. At that moment, a smile gently cracked her lips. I got out of the car and said, “You must be Kathleen.” Yes, readers, Kathleen discerned pretty quickly (well, after she had to take mom’s wallet to the bank and have a teller count all the money) that the best thing she could do for the owner of the wallet was not to give it to the head cashier, but instead, sit tight until she, herself, could put the wallet safely in the hands of the owner. Kathleen stopped her life, her plans, her trip (she is from the great state of the Mighty Miss-sis-sip) and make sure my mother got her wallet. I walked to the door of the store, where my husband had started an FBI interrogation of the head cashier, who knew nothing of a lost wallet being returned, and informed them that Kathleen was outside. Oh, the site that unfolded was something out of an airport movie scene, when my mom threw herself in Kathleen’s arms, thanking her profusely for waiting for us. Kathleen, the proud Harley biker lady, as it turns out, was just that, a lady, an honest, lovely person with a heart for doing the right thing.
Kathleen, who found a loaded wallet, who looked for a number to call to return it to its owner, who did just that, waited until she could return it to my mother. Of course, my mom tried to pay her, as a small way of trying to thank her, and as you might expect, Kathleen refused. Her only request, as she mounted her Harley to drive away, was to “pay it forward.” Kathleen, we will in fact do that. Because you see, one tiny element of the story that I left out, was there was also a 10-year old passenger in the backseat with my mom (I didn’t really want to admit it, because when my sister reads this, she’s likely to be really mad that Scott drove 100 with Ryder in the car). This impressionable 10-year old just witnessed an honest, pay-it-forward act of kindness, in a world that is often filled with acts that are anything but.
In this long drawn out tale of woe, there is a glimmering light of goodness, that restores your faith in our fellow man (or woman). And this offers a stark reminder that our children are watching at all times, even in the most unique of situations, that often creates opportunities for life’s lessons, that remind them, and us, what is good in this world. I wish Kathleen could read this, wherever her Harley took her, in a small attempt to thank her, for her simple, yet colossal, act of kindness. It’s an appropriate reminder as we start the new year, that kindness and honor are alive and well, and when we experience it, we should exploit it in front of our children. Happy New Year, BayouLife readers; I hope your year is filled with many “Kathleen” moments.