You’ve seen it happening, everyone is paying for everyone else’s coffee in the Starbucks drive thru. Yippy fucking skippy.
It makes them feel so good about themselves, except the person who scraped together just enough change for one cup of coffee and has no way to cover the two triple caramel Frappuccino’s for the car behind them.
That person doesn’t feel good at all. Especially when they get to the window and the barista breathlessly exclaims “Our customers have been paying it forward for eighteen cars” looking expectantly at them. WTF are they supposed to do? Due to the suburban mom daisy chain of feel good bullshit, where no one is really doing anything meaningful for the next person, this person who just wanted a fucking cup of coffee now feels like shit.
I’m part of a community FB group, you know the kind where you can find out what the sirens are all about or whose dog is in your yard, yeah, that FB group. In between the complaints about local restaurants and wondering what that loud noise was, you find Pay It Forward Patty. She is the one who has given herself the badge of all-that-is-good-and-holy and makes sure you plan to pay it forward when you publicly thank the guy at the grocery store for covering your groceries because you were short.
And so people are shamed into paying forward something in kind, not out of good will and seeing a need, but to clear their own conscience.
Can you see how we have totally fucked this up??
Paying it forward doesn’t have to be immediate, or in kind, or accounted for by Patty. Paying it forward is giving what you can when you see a need — no strings attached.
No fucking strings, Patty.
If you can give, give. If you are in need, receive with gratitude. Those who receive when in need go on to do the same, not because of expectation but because of empathy.
Those people are the ones getting it right.