Stories of Kindness from Around the World

My Nephew's Birthday Adventure In Paying It Forward


--by shanwills, posted Jul 31, 2010

I want to say thanks to all of you for your special notes and ideas, after I sent my request for 'gifting acts of kindness ideas' for my nephew's birthday last month. I was excited to hear from some of you with suggestions. Pancho suggested that I give him my attention -- as the greatest gift one human being can give another -- yes! Nipun helped out by sharing his own story, and got me thinking further about how I could do a kindness tag, Idaho style. I gave that kid some super-duper hugs, not to mention every bit of attention I could muster, and a good dose of kindness stories, to boot.

There is a long story with great sidenotes that goes with the birthday adventure story, but the short story is as follows: I gave my nephew twenty bucks for his birthday, with the condition that he use it to do something kind for someone -- anonymously. There was a lot of hemming and hawing about that (does anyone use that expression anywhere except in Idaho? :) among my family members, and sidelong glances and statements about how Shannon has gone crazy, but we already knew that, etc., etc.
 
But we ended up, after much deliberation and storytelling, going to the local hamburger joint, which is the hoppin-est place in our-town Idaho on a Tuesday night, and anonymously tagging the people in the burger line.  The server that helped us with the tag was so excited about it, she said to my nephew, "That is so cool! And you are an awesome kid. Gimme five!" You should have seen him blush.
 
The couple who finally got the tag were so surprised, they looked at each other and didn't know what to do upon hearing the news that their meal had already been paid for, anonymously. They were told that they didn't owe anything, but could respond by paying it forward if they wished. The guy just smiled, shrugged his shoulders, and looked at his female companion, presumably for guidance. The girl looked back at him, took the $20 she was going to use to pay for the burgers, and put it in the tip jar for the employees. Then she reached into her purse, grabbed out another wad of bills, and put them in the tip jar, too. Then she shrugged back at him and smiled. Well, that was totally off the cuff! I guess paying it forward is natural.

When the cashier came out later to give us the change from the burger sale (around two dollars), my nephew didn't want to take it. He said, "Why don't you keep it, or maybe you could forward it to someone else?" Of course, she loved the idea. Who knows...maybe that two dollars bought someone a hot dog :)
 
After our tagging outing, my nephew and I went around town doing some random acts of kindness for various family members. At one point, he turned to me and said, "Shannon, you know what we did with tagging those people? I want to do that again." Of course, I couldn't resist telling him the story of the child in Mexico who said the same thing after he was forced to give up his favorite toy. He wasn't surprised. He said, "I understand! But usually people don't do that kind of stuff in Idaho." I said, "They do now!"
 
So there's my little story...
The cool thing is that not only does this story include a tag and some little transformations (including that of my brother, who went from being a total skeptic in this project to a still-somewhat-confused supporter); but it also brought my nephew and I a lot closer in ways that I didn't expect. Doing kind things for others -- together -- creates an energy and a bond that is very special.
 
Thanks to all of you for being the supreme taggers and storytellers that you are, and for inspiring change in all the little corners of the world!

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Readers Comments

HENRY NELSON. wrote: Giving kids good attention is the best way to bring them up.
Zevelina wrote: Doing kindness with kids is the best!
Winnie wrote: How super is this gift tagging, i have birthdays coming up and i am going to send the twenty with istructions to pay it forward. Hip hio hooray for all the generous hearts out there.
RipplesGuy wrote: Thanks for taking the time to tell us about your awesome adventures. Just excellent.
luv4all wrote: What a lovely story, inspiring in a cool way.

Its hard to start a pay it forward phenomenon, it jus doesnt exist in society. I have gone to shops thinking i would pay it forward but somehow jus returned buying my own stuff. I think it needs a good conversation with the person who you shall hand over money for paying it forward and he/she should understand and feel grt in the game
Charlie wrote: What a great story. I will try this with my niece when she comes next summer. Hopefully i will have a fun story to share from that.
sonrisa wrote: Great story about the birthday celebration and so neat to hear that guesswhat has decided to try this idea out for a birthday celebration tomorrow! So cool that one story has already created the potential for another ripple of kindness! Looking forward to hearing how it all goes :)
GuessWhat wrote: Great idea! I will try it too, for my birthday tomorrow :d i am feeling embarrassed to do this, because now i fall firmly under the category of 'grown-up's, but well, it's anonymous :) so i will try it at the local jp licks! Wish me luck ;)
irishgirl wrote: That's great news that you not only tagged someone but brought 2 others into it as well. Nicely done!
FairyBubbles wrote: That is so cool - I loved reading this.

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