Stories of Kindness from Around the World

$100 Pay-it-forward Award

--by IZZY, posted Dec 10, 2007

I recently received a $100 pay-it-forward award from Karma Kitchen, where I volunteer occasionally.  It's a gift-economy restaurant where everyone pays what they want, for the person after them.  On nights when more money is received, it is distributed as pay-it-forward awards from which we have to do something good in our community.

So on Labor Day, I invited my two friends -- Hafeez and Mita -- to Berkeley to put $100 to good use.

I placed the order at Southside Bongo Burger, but then restaurant owner called me back.  "You want what?  $100 worth of Burgers?" the owner queried me on the phone.  I suppose he wanted to confirm it was a real order and not some sort of fraternity prank. :)

"Yes, yes," I explained. "We recently received $100 gift to pay-it-forward.  So three of us wanted to give a personalized, gourmet treat to our homeless brothers and sisters -- who were just like us, but with a different set of circumstances surrounding them.  We didn't want to give our money to a  multi-conglomerate, so Bongo Burger, a Berkeley staple since 1969 seemed like a soulful-enough choice."

As Hafeez and I waited for Mita -- who was on her way up from the South Bay -– we got a chance to buy a couple of sign language cards from a deaf man who entered the restaurant.  It was good because he looked like he needed a sale. Shortly after Hafeez practiced a few thank you's with our deaf friend, Mita arrived.  (I was impressed that she went to Peet's on her own and purchased a bag of sweets with her own money to also hand out along with smile cards.)

So then, all three of us made our way to the historic People's Park where "the people" successfully re-possessed the land away from University hands in 1969.

Our plan was to hand out the lunches, but it was a delicate balance to try to differentiate between the truly needy to the ones just hanging out to the drug-dealer types (yes, Hafeez and I were offered on 2 separate occassions) to the more mellow and harmelss types.  So we had to exercise street intuition, combined with safety, combined with an eye for charity.  Thank God we had experience living, not just in the library studying!

We ran into "Food Not Bombs" volunteers and saw them passing out warm soup and vegetables to a queue of homeless people. A representative told me from her truck that all of the donations are from reclaimed food stores -- and from generous people alike. We were moved by their spirit of generosity.

Along the way, we met several good-souled people who were happy to receive the smile cards and healthy, high-quality food.  We had a good tag at the Newman Center Catholic church; and managed to get to some other spiritual centers like the Hare Krishna temple on Stuart, and the Ramakrishna Math on Haste.

Interacting with homeless people can be quite sad, so we were careful to keep sprightly, and the mood jovial.  We posed for silly pictures, and threw the football on the memorial glade to work an impromptu balance with our service project.

We made our way to the North side, then back through campus.

When all was said and done, we spent over $100 in spreading goodness though generosity. We unwound at the Mediterraneum before heading off in our separate ways.  But not before getting to know a couple of kind people better; and not before feeling richer from the experience of giving.
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Readers Comments

cinnamonhead wrote: I love these kinds of stories. Thanks for sharing.
lhatton wrote: It sounds like a wonderful day. Thanks for sharing your experience.
brighteyes wrote: WOW- what an eventful and worthwhile day you all had....sharing kindnesses and meeting many new people..can understand why you felt enriched by the day's end.

P.S. Never heard of Karma Kitchen but sounds like a great place to visit.
katlampi wrote: This is a fabulous story! I had never heard of Karma Kitchen prior to reading this, but I looked through the website, and it sounds like an amazing idea! Thank God for angels like you!
clemsongirl000 wrote: What a great story! I love hearing about other's experiences in giving to those in need, whether it just be a shoulder to cry on, food to eat, or just a smile to lift someone's spirit. Keep up the good work:)
JuneBug wrote: Such a great story! Thank you for sharing!!!
lovebug wrote: Interactin with homeless people can be sad, but rewarding,if you listen. I wish I could say, I have learned to balance life, but I have not. Rich or poor are all the same to me. Middle class. What is that? I enjoy the rich faith I find in the poor, they live by faith, and faith only. By God's grace I managed to become middle class, but I do not understand what that means.
akbj wrote: I worked in a dept. in a hospital in which I came into contact with many homeless people. I also frequently felt sad at their circumstances, & in gratefulness for my job, would sometimes give those who seemed truly needy money for the bus. I really appreciated your story. You all went way out of your ordinary life to uplift some lives with your generosity. An awesome story, thanks

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