The other day, I had an experience that has reshaped my preconceived notions of the poor and also increased my awareness of the needs around me. I won’t get into the nitty-gritty of the situation but, in short, I was able to help a family who were clearly in dire need of assistance. Then today, I found myself in a very different situation. I was in the drive-thru at a Starbucks and when I rolled up to the window, the barista informed me that the driver ahead of me had paid for my drink. (I had actually gotten a drink and a croissant.) I paused, looked at her and admitted, “It’s so interesting. I never really know what to do in this situation.”
In the past, when I’ve been in the line of a Starbucks and my bill has been pre-paid, I’ll often go ahead and pay for the person’s drink behind me. But not today. Today, I didn’t pay it forward. My reasoning was simple. I would not be in line if I couldn’t pay for it myself. And I think it’s a good assumption that the person behind me wouldn’t be in line if he or she couldn’t purchase their order as well. That doesn’t mean that the person doesn’t need some encouragement, and it doesn’t mean that it would have been wrong if I did purchase it. But this time I simply paused and thought about the day before when I was faced with someone who was clearly in financial need and it hit me, if I can learn to steward my finances well and pray for these opportunities, perhaps I can serve those in need in greater ways.
I didn’t pay for the person’s order at Starbucks, but I did pray for them. No worries, this doesn’t mean I’ll be leaving gospel tracts instead of tips—no way, just the opposite! I want to be more aware of those around me, more prayerful for experiences where I can encourage others through the gospel and through financial assistance when possible, but I want to also be wise and discerning. I received that gift at Starbucks with great thanksgiving and I might one day take a Starbucks patron by surprise again and pay for their drink, but today I didn’t.
What about you? Do you always pay it forward immediately when given a gift? If so, why? If not, why not?
(picture by Luis Llerena)