Feeling Thankful? Pay it forward.

Time to be thankful.. and pay it forward

A moment in my life… Today was freezing in New York. The wind was brutal, and all I wanted to do the entire day was to stay home and sit by the fireplace and drink hot tea. And most of the day I did, until I had to get out to pick up kids from school. I felt useless and that I hadn’t accomplished as much as I had wanted to (I actually did: I booked our flights to Sweden, it’s official: we have a moving date!) and was cranky for kids too, just simply because I felt bad about myself. What was happening to me? The feelings of happiness of moving but sadness of leaving were driving me crazy, and the lack of sleep and the long moving to-do list were getting to me. And as you can read from this post – I may be really losing it. I felt like blogging this moment in my life – and maybe you too are inspired to do a small thing – that can be a big thing.

It’s Just Coffee

Kids were starving and tired, but we stopped at the small local grocery store on the way home. “I’m tired.” “I’m cold.” “I don’t want to go to store, can’t I just have a sandwich for dinner?” As we were walking towards the store, we noticed two young men collecting money and giving out pamphlets. “We are from “Transforming Men to Transform the World”, it’s a Christian organization helping men to transform their lives, we help drug addicts and others to find a better lifestyle.” Or he said something like this, all I heard was “Christian” and that they “help people to get a new lifestyle” and yadda yadda yadda. It would have been easy to walk by and hush my kids to the store, we were all freezing outside, but then I looked at one of the young men in the eyes. I could see how sincerely he wanted to help someone, and I could believe that he in fact was doing his small or big part of transforming someone’s life, and making a difference. Maybe he was just brainwashed by a Christian cult for all I could know, but I felt his sincerity. “How long have you been standing here in the cold today?” I asked. “Since nine o’clock on the morning” he said. It was four o’clock on the afternoon. “Holy crap!” Oops, maybe “holy crap” wasn’t the right choice of the words and I’m sure I offended them and was a bad example for my kids, and yadda yadda yadda, but it slipped out of my mouth. And it really felt craptastically cold, my hands were freezing and I only walked from the warm car to the store front! “Has anyone brought you coffee or anything else warm to drink?” “No, but we don’t need anything, God is keeping us warm.” As we entered the store, I could have easily brushed off that conversation of my mind, but it made me think. How come someone can have such a strong belief that he feels warm inside even in the freezing weather? Was it God really doing it? But if God was doing it – why in the world didn’t He control the weather a bit better today for those poor guys standing outside? What was God trying to tell them? Test their faith? Well, I think I’d say they passed it. Then I had a thought – maybe God was trying to send me a message, maybe I should be the one taking those men hot coffee. Maybe I should do more what I know is the right thing to do, and what I deep in my heart want to do. The kids and I talked about the men trying to help others, and how cold they must be outside, and after leaving the store, we all wanted to get them coffee. We left our car in the parking lot and walked to a close by bakery coffee shop. We could have driven, but I don’t think we would have felt the same way. I wanted to feel the cold wind on my cheeks, and on the kids’ cheeks, and I wanted us to feel the contrast of the warmth of the coffee as we carried them back to the grocery store parking lot. As soon as we entered the parking lot and the young men saw us, my daughter had this biggest smile on her face. She was so happy and so proud what we had just done. It was just coffee and fresh croissants, but I hope it felt much more for the young men receiving them, because it felt much more to us. “Thank you so much, you didn’t have to do this,” he said. “I didn’t do it. This is how God is keeping you warm,” I said. Tell your story – how are you helping people around you? If you have blogged about it, please leave a link!
  1. What a great message by example you sent to your kids.

    I remember vividly the evening I was working in Chicago. I’d just left a hospital in a not so nice part of town. It was around 6pm, dark and freezing and I was starving so I drove across the street to a McDonalds to the drive-thru. As I was sitting in line a scraggly man came up to my window to ask for money. At first I thought of ignoring him but my conscience or God told me to do otherwise. I didn’t have any cash on my but I offered to buy him something to eat and something warm to drink. His eyes lit up and he got so excited when I told him to pick anything he wanted off the menu and as much as he wanted. He asked if it was OK if he got one of their rib sandwiches in a super-sized meal and I told him fine then asked if he wanted to go inside to eat. He said they wouldn’t let him in so I offered to go inside and eat with him but he declined. When I asked if he wanted some hot coffee or hot chocolate he nodded quickly. He waited for me past the pick-up window and had the biggest smile and couldn’t say thank you enough when I handed him his food and drink.

    Nothing I’ve done since then has filled my heart with such warmth and I find myself looking for others to touch the same way.

  2. What a beautiful story!! Oh it moved me so much Katja. Thank you for sharing it. I am deep in thought about ways my family can make a difference in this world too. This world needs more giving!

  3. Were they from Transformation Life Center? I’ve known men who have gone there and been GREATLY helped. So glad you allowed God to use you to provide for them…and that you shared.

  4. I’m sure I don’t even have to tell you how this made me feel Katja. It just warms my heart to see you share this moment with your kids & us, and warms it even more to give God the credit.

    I love you!!!!

  5. The other night on the train home from NYC, the guy next to me couldn’t find his train ticket. He was so confused, so honest, so I paid for him and it felt great.

  6. Juho – what a great man your father is for doing what many unfortunately didn’t do. And yes Teresa, little things matter, even if it’s not saving someone’s life like Juho’s father did.

    I think with so many people in distress, needing help, having financial difficulties, fighting health issues, we easily feel we can’t do much. But WE CAN. Even if we can’t donate loads of money, time or other resources, we can make a difference in someone’s life with small things. I think if we all pay it forward to one person at the time, it will make a HUGE difference.

  7. Love this! What a sweet sweet story! Just last weekend, I had gone to the store to get some fresh fruit, water and just a few other things. I was about to turn the corner to get on the street to head home and there was a man sitting there with a sign about needing work and food. There was no one behind me so I got out, went to the back of my car, pulled out an orange and an apple and gave it to him. I got back into the car, and I thought I bet he’s thirsty too. So, I got back out, still no cars behind me and handed him a water bottle and smiled and told him to have a good day. I live in Southern California so the man wasn’t cold, but I just thought how refreshing the fruit and water might be for him. It’s the little things we can do, right?

  8. What a great story, and well told too. I’ll bet you dollars to donuts your kids won’t ever forget what happened that day, and how they were part of it. And how you gave them a personal example of how to actually help someone. Even when they insist they don’t need your help, which happens a lot with charity workers – interesting paradox there.

    Just to prove my point… I remember vividly when, loooong ago when I was a boy, my father and I walked by some guy who’d fallen into the snowbank and was just lying there. Dead of winter, freezing cold, -15C or so. We saw people walk, assuming he’s a drunk and just leaving him there. My father, being a doctor, took a step back and instantly knew this man had some sort of medical trouble. He pulled him out of the snow, woke him up and walked him inside a store to wait for an ambulance. He could have been dead within an hour.

    So again, thanks for sharing the story, and showing a great example. Little things like this, system interventions if you will, are what really make the world a better place. Godspeed to your move!

  9. I hear you! It is so difficult to teach our children a lesson (in this case to myself as well) and I hope this taught them more than just adding a few dollars in their collection bucket.

    And Leelee – same here. It’s so easy just to walk by, try not to look at them in their eyes, try not to help. It also makes me feel useless, and think “how much a few bucks would really do, and I really can’t help more than that now, and why is this particular charity worth it more than the other ones”… But this time I thought about it, and while we only out a dollar to their bucket – we wanted to show that we appreciated that they were truly trying to help others.

  10. What a great story. Sometimes it really bothers me how coldly I treat those who want to help others. I guess I think I am good enough to pick and choose who I can help. How wrong I am! It is not my business to judge if they are worthy of help or not. Everyone needs help sometimes. Kudos for buying those guys some coffee.

  11. Wow. Just wow. I love this. And weirdly enough when my son was complaining about being soooo tired and so cold on his way to school this morning (8:21, by the way) I snapped at him, YOU’RE cold and tired? Do you remember when we were in Boston last week and you saw all those homeless people sleeping outside? Do you really want to complain overandoverandoverandover about how cold and tired you are when you woke up in a warm bed and had a big breakfast?
    I know it’s the old “Eat that, people are starving in Africa,” but it just came out. I like your story much better.

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