Ryan M. Taylor: Cowboy Logic 1-7-12
“Pay it forward,” was a term I heard first in a movie by that name. From what I remember, it was about a kid who came up with the idea of doing something nice for someone and rather than take any payment or return favor, he just tells them to “pay it forward.” Do something nice for the next person down the line and keep it going.
It’s a good lesson to ponder as we turn the page on another year. Might even be a good movie to watch as you consider resolutions for 2012 and ways we might want to change our life, and the world, for the better.
Maybe you’ve had it happen to you. We do something similar to it when we help neighbors work their calves, or feed the mourners and family members after a funeral in a church basement. A simple act of food or labor that defines the meaning of community.
Those are a little different than a classic ‘pay it forward’ act because we know the people well who we are helping. They’re our friends and neighbors, not a random stranger. Good acts and efforts, but not quite as selfless as helping someone you’ve never met who won’t have the opportunity to repay the favor.
A couple weeks before Christmas, we had our little family out to eat at a restaurant. My wife and I and the three little rascals flung open the door at Perkins restaurant and were seated at a booth. They seat families with little kids at booths in restaurants. It gives us more control. With kids tucked on the inside and Mom and Dad each guarding the bench edged exit, you can kind of keep them from running wild.
You take every advantage you can when you’re outnumbered, two of us big people versus three little people. We like to patronize restaurants that have a kids menu printed on an activity sheet/place mat and that give the tikes a three pack of brand new crayons when they seat you. Whoever came up with the idea of giving kids crayons and a coloring page at restaurants deserves a Nobel prize for keeping peace amongst hungry families eating out.
So we’re sitting at this restaurant coloring some dinosaurs and visiting about whether they’d like pancakes for supper, or the kids hamburger platter. The meals came and the kids did pretty well. Not too much food flying around, and no one had to get yelled at.
A single man, early grandpa age, sat at a table across from us and seemed to enjoy the break in the dining monotony that our family circus provided. I’ve eaten at a lot of restaurants by myself when I was a young, traveling salesman, so I know how it feels to eat alone and yearn for a little entertainment.
Our 3-year-old girl made eye contact with him and commenced to engaging him in a little conversation. I like living in a place where I don’t feel like I have to worry too much about creepy people who harm little kids. We know it can happen anywhere, and I worry a little about our kids being too outgoing, but we also want to raise children that can put a smile on someone’s face and make their day a little brighter.
Well this friendly fella at the next table left, and when the waiter came to see how our supper was he told us that the man had paid for our supper as he left. He said he appreciated how well behaved our children were and how he enjoyed dining next to a nice family.
I didn’t know what to say. He wasn’t even there to thank. The only thing I can think to do now, in this new year, is to pay it forward.