Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Week 8: Pay It Backward

We live close to Milwaukee and while the city has a lot to offer, it obviously pales in comparison to Chicago, which is only 100 miles south.  My husband and I make it a priority to visit Chicago with the kids every other month or so.  There is so much there to enjoy: amazing shopping for antiques and home restoration, the Art Institute of Chicago has (deservedly) been named the best art museum in the world, there are many fun festivals throughout the summers, you can watch movies and television shows being filmed, and a perfect Chicago day isn't complete without a yeasty breakfast from The Doughnut Vault, hot chocolate from XOCO, and fresh-made pasta from Eataly!

But getting there?  That's the less-than-fun part. And so this weekend I thought we'd make it a bit more enjoyable for a few drivers. 

The first random act of kindness I recall doing as an adult was paying tolls for people behind me in line on my first solo trip from Milwaukee to Chicago at the age of 18.  This was in the days before the I-Pass, or as my kids like to call it, the "olden days"...when everyone had to inconveniently stop and dig out the appropriate change. (Fortunately for the college student I was back then, tolls were only 50 cents, not $2.80 as they are now.)

I remember looking in my rear-view mirror hoping to catch a glimpse of the expressions of those in line behind me.  Once or twice drivers pulled up alongside me to wave or give a smile or thumbs up.  What a fun feeling it was to know that I put those smiles on their faces.

Not as many drivers use the cash tollbooth these days with the availability of the automatic I-Pass and the ability to drive through without slowing down it offers. My own kids questioned why I was slowing down as we approached the first toll and even the tollbooth operator said, "You already paid for your toll with that," as he pointed to our handy dandy gadget.  I explained to him (and my kids) that we wanted to pay for the car behind us.  He smiled and handed me my change adding, "I'm sure they're appreciate that."

Unfortunately, I don't have any fun stories to share of interacting with drivers after that, but we had some discussion in the car about how nice it would be to be fully intent on purchasing something only to have it already paid for, no matter how small the item was.  We also all agreed that we enjoyed giving that feeling to others.  We're definitely planning on doing another "pay it backward" act of kindness in the next 32 weeks.  Stay tuned...

"I have this theory that if one person can go out of their way to show compassion, then it will start a chain reaction of the same."  - Rachel Scott

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