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Four Years at the Mount

Senior Year

What a Change You Could Make

Nicole Jones
Class of 2014

(4/2014) It was a Sunday morning, the busiest day at Bob Evansí Restaurant. The kitchen was fully staffed and the floor was cluttered with seven waitresses flitting from table to table. I was among them. One of my tables was ready to order. It was a booth seated with two middle-aged couples; their hair was greying around the edges, ready to blend in with the sea of elderly couples that traditionally graced the restaurant. They were regulars, but I had never served them before. I politely asked for their order, and they chimed off one-by-one.

"A waffle with blueberry topping, please."

"Iíll have the Farmerís Choice with scrambled eggs and hash browns."

"The same for me."

"Iíll have the Southwestern Omelet, please."

I nodded, jotting everything down in my notebook and asking if there was anything else I could get for them this morning.

"That will be everything for us," said the gentleman who ordered last. He was wearing a black suit and a neck brace. The suit was typical of him but the brace was new. I wondered vaguely what might have happened to him. "But is there anything we can buy for you today?"

The question startled me. I was here to serve him. I had been at this job for a month and a half and never had anyone offered to buy me a meal. I was just supposed to bring meals to them. I must have looked like a deer in headlights during the time it took for me to process his question. I shook my head and smiled.

"No thank you, sir."

Though I hadnít taken the gentleman up on his offer, he had just committed an act called "paying it forward." To pay it forward means committing an act of kindness towards another person. This act can be as small as holding the door open for someone or as dramatic and unexpected as offering to pay for someoneís meal. The theory is that your act of kindness will inspire others Ė the person you helped and anyone who may have observed Ė to spread kindness as well. These acts are not done for personal reward, but simply because to be kind is to demonstrate love towards others, and every person deserves to be loved.

That same Sunday, a father came in with his five-year old son. The boy had an origami book and was folding a paper crane when I took their order.

"Thatís pretty neat. What do you have there?" I decided to connect with the little boy. He held up his book.

"Itís origami," he said excitedly, starting to flip through the pages to show me what other creatures could be made from paper.

"Cool! Are you going to make one of everything?" I asked.

"Uh-huh. Dad got it for me," he nodded.

"Well, he sounds like a pretty cool dad. You keep it up, and Iíll come back to see what youíve made."

The boy beamed up at me before concentrating on his next fold. He later put aside his origami when I served him his chocolate chip pancakes, but when I dropped off the check, I made sure to give him a little more encouragement.

"The next time I see you, I bet youíll have finished that entire book."

I didnít think any more about it and took the next tableís order. Business as usual. I was punching an order of all-you-can-eat pancakes into the computer when a little face popped around the counter. It was the boy. I smiled.

"Well, hello again."

He stretched his hands out towards me. I carefully took the paper from him.

"For me?" I asked.

He nodded and said, "Have a nice day!"

"Thank you!" I waved as he walked out the door and I marveled at the little paper bird in my hand. Thatís when I realized my encouragement had meant something to that boy. I had only said a few words to him, but it had left a positive impression. In turn, his small gift had made my day.

I decided to share these stories with my friends the other day, and it opened a floodgate of pay it forward stories.

"I bought someoneís meal at 7-Eleven once," said my friend, Matthew Steele. "She was obviously very poor. She was paying in all change, and she was at the point where she had hundreds of pennies she was counting out. She clearly didnít have the money."

"My family was out walking in Baltimore once, and we found twenty dollars on the ground," said Nicole Vanagas. "We continued walking, and we came across this poor crippled man sitting on the ground, and we gave him the money. He teared up and said, ĎYou just bought me meals for the week.í He was so genuinely grateful."

"We had a very old neighbor in her 90s," began Olivia Gorman. "She had an at-home nurse, but she lived alone. On Thanksgiving Day my father suggested that we take Thanksgiving dinner over to Ms. Johnson, but when we got there, we found out she was a vegetarian. Dad had us bring the food back, and we prepared her a vegetarian meal. Unfortunately, we couldnít get her over to our house, but my sisters and I sat with her while she ate Thanksgiving dinner."

Matthew had a second, even more incredible story, but this time it wasnít about himself.

"My great uncle was the mayor of Shiremanstown," Matt explained. "He would do a lot of little things for other people. He would visit the prison and volunteer at shelters. Then simple things like buying people ice cream cones and such. Anyway, when he died there were over 2,000 people at his funeral. It was amazing because we got to see all the people that he touched. Everyone loved him."

Itís amazing how simple acts can touch peopleís lives. Many times we never know what an impact we may have had on a person until, like Matthewís great uncle, we have passed on. He left behind an inspirational legacy that teaches us not to withhold kindness from others. Your one simple act of kindness may be the encouragement others need to pay it forward. If we can keep that chain reaction going, we can begin to make this world a kinder place to live in.

Read other articles by Nicole Jones