This week Zoë and I had an evening to ourselves, so we swung by the Redbox and then stopped in at Chicago’s Pizza for some of their incredibly ridiculous breadsticks. The moment we walked in, I spotted my dear friend, Julie.
Julie and I went to high school together. I have loved that girl all my life. We’ve been friends since we were in grade school. She’s always had a sweet soul, and a beautifully warm smile, and I love to be around her.
The circumstances of life have landed her with the single-mom gig. Both of her boys are now in college, and she works at Chicago’s a few nights a week to help them out.
The restaurant was packed. There was only one table left in the back corner, so we took our seat and waited for Julie to come over. She said we could help ourselves to the salad and breadstick buffet, so we did just that.
I had never been to Chicago’s on buffet night, so I had no idea what a face-stuffing war zone it would be.
And that was just at my own table.
The patrons lined up to pile plate after plate with Italian goodness, while Julie delivered drink refills and her lovely smile to each table.
The table next to me bore a mom with 3 kids about Zoë’s age. The mom was on her cell phone the entire time, and those kids were making an unbelievable mess. At one point, the mom got up and left the table for a while, and those kids starting shooting water at each other through their straws. There was water all over the table, the walls, and the floor.
I promptly mama-beared those cubs, and sternly said, “HEY! Somebody has to clean that up, ya know!” And then I blistered all 3 of their behinds.
(Tee hee. I didn’t do that.)
I just bit my tongue while my blood boiled.
But when Julie brought the bill, I looked at Zoë and I said, “Pay it forward?”
Zoë has come to learn exactly what this means.
She smiled, nodded, and said “Yay, how much?”
Paying it forward has become a ritual of ours since last year. This means it is time to be ridiculously generous to someone… just because we can.
Let me tell you why.
We know what it means to hurt. And we also know what it means to work hard for the money. (Sing it with me!)
Two years ago, almost to the day, I sat with piles of bills laid out in front of me with my head in hands.
Zion’s medical bills and insurance policies were drowning me financially.
Zoë walked up and said, “Hi Mama, what are you doing?”
And I said, “Nothing sweetie. Just paying some bills.”
My little angel, who was 10 at the time, said “Is it bad?”
I just forced a pained smile.
She knew it was bad. She has always been older and wiser than her years. She’s a child with an old soul.
I said “Yes, it’s pretty overwhelming.”
She didn’t say anything else. She just kissed me on my forehead and ran off into her room.
Later that night Zoë came back to me with the idea that she wanted to sell handmade jewelry to raise money to help pay for Zion’s medical bills.
And that’s the night Zoë’s Starfish was born.
We brainstormed a million miles a minute. We dreamed of ideas, and ways to make millions and billions of dollars. We giggled about taking some of our millions and building a pineapple house under the sea like Spongebob Squarepants.
She took my hurt away, if only for a moment.
But she also gave me hope. Hope that I could ask others to buy our little jewelry pieces, and provide for my son. And maybe, just maybe someday help other families as well.
That night we vowed that when we were able to Pay it Forward, we would do it.
And we have.
So when Julie brought that bill, and I said those three words to my daughter, her eyes sparkled.
The bill was $15.
Zoë said “How about a $20 tip?”
I turned around and looked at the enormous mess the kids behind us had made.
So I said “How about $50?”
Zoë bounced up and down in her chair with joy.
So not only did we get to bless sweet, hardworking Julie, I got to teach my daughter once again that sometimes you just help because you can.
Because you should.
Because it is the right thing to do.
Remember that the next time you scroll past a Go Fund Me or Kickstarter campaign on Facebook.
Don’t roll your eyes at me.
Stop and click on that link, and read what that person or family is going through.
Really put yourself in that person’s place, and try to understand what it must feel like to have a child with a terminal disease. Or to have just lost your wife. Or to have had your house just burn to the ground.
Don’t think about it. Or calculate it.
It doesn’t matter what the cause. All that matters is your heart.
You won’t miss that $10 at all.
And if everyone followed suit, that person’s financial burden would be lifted.
Make someone’s day.
It will make you feel good.
It will make that person feel great.
And at the end of the day, do I really need to worry what that person is spending my $10 on?
Let’s say you hand $5 to a homeless person on the street, and he runs down to the liquor store and spends it on booze.
Not ideal. But so friggin what?
Your heart was right.
And God saw that.
THAT’S what matters.
“Do good. Give the world the best you have and it may never be enough. Give your best anyway. For you see, in the end, it is between you and God. It was never between you and them anyway.” -Mother Teresa of Calcutta