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Paying it forward shows up in unexpected places

Updated: May 8, 2020

And maybe that’s the point. Like tucked in the rim of a Life is good ball cap in the Seattle-Tacoma Airport. When shopping a week ago for an inspirational pick-me-up for my brother Richard, who’s going through a tough time, I discovered this $5 bill tucked in the rim of a mustard-colored hat displayed on a hat holder. Not one that was on the table and more likely to be picked up, but the one on the display rack, placed there intentionally. I checked it for size, pulling back the rim, and viola. The folded $5 bill fell out into my hand.

Finding a $5 bill there was so incongruent it made me think. But it was clear within moments that this was an intentional random act of kindness or an example of someone paying it forward. Like when you pull up to the window at the Starbucks drive-thru to pay for your drink and the barista tells you the driver in front of you bought your drink. Someone had left this to be found, and I was the one to do so.

The responsibility I feel for that $5 bill has been with me all week. Clearly, it must be passed along, but where and how? Leaving my hotel room in Dallas a few days ago I was greeted by the housekeeper, a woman with the most glorious ear-to-ear grin who wished me a great day, authentically, not just obligatorily. So I thought, maybe it’s meant for her! Then I remembered my travel habit of always just leaving the key to my room on the desk when I leave the final time. So, no chance to go back in and plant it somewhere she would find it. Must mean it’s meant for another time and place.

I feel the power of the gift I am now required to leave. And the energy, emotion and the mystery of the giver who placed it in the rim of that cap in Seattle. It’s already traveled from Seattle to Kelowna to San Diego to Dallas, and now back again to San Diego since being in my protective possession. Where it will end up I don’t yet know, but I hope the small act of placing it somewhere to be found by a total stranger will have the impact it has had on me. You don’t get to know when or where kindness will show up. And when it does? Breathe it in, and pass it along.

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