Pay It Forward or Turn It Down?

By Amy Dickinson | January 25th, 2019

When a thoughtful but unneeded random act of kindness comes your way


DEAR AMY: My income is derived entirely from Social Security and a small pension that has not increased one penny in 31 years.

Because I have always managed to avoid getting into debt, my life in retirement is quite rich: A European river cruise and two Caribbean cruises so far this year, and a transatlantic and two more Caribbean cruises are scheduled for next year.

Recently, upon returning to a grocery store to pick up two items that I had forgotten to purchase, a young lady in line behind me wanted to pay my tab to get a “blessing.”

I refused this offer as being unnecessary.

Was it wrong to reject the offer? Should I have tried to pay it forward? – Wondering Senior

DEAR SENIOR: You seem to feel insulted by this generosity because you don’t actually need the money. But this was not about the money – it was about spreading a small kindness, which, hopefully, would inspire yet more kindness. Oops, you went another way.

The person in back of you in line at the grocery store might have left her house that day, feeling fortunate and wanting to proactively spread her good fortune. Or perhaps she saw an older person in line and spontaneously wanted to honor your seniority, the way she hoped someone else might honor her own parent or grandparent.

Every once in a while, I’ll be in the drive-thru line at Dunkin’, and when I get to the window, I’ll learn that the person ahead of me has picked up the tab for my coffee. Even though I can afford to buy my own coffee, I’m always tickled when this happens – and it sets up a little chain of good fortune, because it reminds me that even small kindnesses are powerful. And so, yes, I gratefully accept the opportunity to pay the kindness forward for the person in the car behind mine.

You can respond to this “mitzvah” by forgiving yourself for your reaction and by doing a good deed now for someone else. You’ll feel better when you do.

In the tradition of the great personal advice columnists, Chicago Tribune’s Amy Dickinson is a plainspoken straight shooter who relates to readers of all ages. She answers personal questions by addressing issues from both her head and her heart. A solid reporter, Dickinson researches her topics to provide readers with informed opinions and answers. Ask Amy, P.O. Box 194, Freeville, NY 13068

© 2019 by Amy Dickinson

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