Pay it Forward

Recently, I was the recipient of a random act of kindness. Yes, in Toronto. In the FINANCIAL DISTRICT no less. I know. The shock of it all was so great that it apparently prevented me being able to blog for two weeks. Or clean my apartment. Or file my taxes. What? It was a significant event, people.

Wanna hear what happened? Good, cause imma tell you anyway.

My morning started just like any other- an excrutiating death march  exhilarating jaunt on the treadmill, followed by wishing I had never been born a delightful bowl of oatmeal sprinkled with sunshine and unicorn kisses, and I was off on my commute to work.  After my daily dance with the devil (aka: trying to make it through the subway turnstile with 489808 bags of stuff) I tucked into the Starbucks in my office building to get my morning sweet nectar.

This kid's got nothin on me pre-caffeine infusion

Just to set the scene for you, the simple act of getting a morning coffee in the financial district, much like my commute in general, is both a stressful and terrifying event. Everyone is herded like cattle into these complicated little ropes, and there are never any less than 30-40 people in line behind you who all have somewhere to be, like NOW (time is money, people). And if you don’t know exactly what you want/have either precise change, a Starbucks card, or some sort of instantaneous Jedi mind trick with which to pay, then god help you, cause you’re gonna get some death stares. I myself have been recipient of no fewer than 37 death stares in March alone…mostly due to constantly holding up the line with my unreasonable requests for Soy milk.

Like this, only everyone is in suits. And maybe one or two other differences

Anyway, that day I committed the cardinal sin of having no cash whatsoever, and had to pay for my $2.26 coffee with debit. SHAME. Just as I pulled out my card to pay though,  the lovely older man behind me (who I noted was not dressed in the standard skinny suit, half windsor/half inferiority complex, but rather jeans and a sweatshirt) stopped me in my tracks and handed the barista a $20, saying – “just put hers on mine”.


I was like:

[Source: Thanks to Haliphonia for the recommendation]

Before I even had the chance to thank him, he was off, simply saying “have a nice day!”.

I’ll be honest, I was never really a believer in the whole “random act of kindness” thing… it all seemed a little too “Oprah’s Angel Network/ Eat-Pray-Love”-y to me. But god damn it, I DID have a nice day after that. I told everyone I knew, and was grinning like a double showcase winner on the Price is Right. 

As an east-coaster in Toronto, I often miss the friendliness and hospitality  of the folks back home- so this was a very welcome surprise. (I recognize that this man probably just wanted to get his coffee without me holding up the line, but you take what you can get).  

 This whole R.A.K business, however, is a gift that also comes with a price- you gotta pay it forward.

Haley Joel Osment styles... pre-drunk driving scandal, of course.

No problem, I thought. I’ll just get someone’s coffee tomorrow. Only, I realized that this is actually quite difficult and awkward in practice. Since I’m too shy/lack the physical stature to do what my Gifter did and hand the money over the person, I considered leaving my barrista with enough money to pay  for the person in line behind me. But then, they’d always go and order a Double Venti Carmel Macchiato, a banana chocolate chip loaf,  The Opus Collection by Billy Joel and an Ethos Water, and instead of $2, we’re looking at $117.84… and I didn’t sign on for that shit. Plus, then I started getting all particular and snobby about who I was going to bestow my act upon- sizing up my potential candidates, mostly dependent on his/her outfit (I’m extremely shallow)… thus eliminating the whole “random” aspect of it entirely.

Since coffee wasn’t working for me, I decided to take my RAK mission elsewhere. I thought about paying for someone’s grocery order in the speedy checkout, but this posed most of the same logistical problems.. not to mention that I’d probably have FOMO about whatever it was they were buying and have to go back and buy myself eggo waffles or whatever. I thought about leaving some kind of complimentary note on a bathroom mirror that said “you’re beautiful” or some shit like that, but then I realized that was just ridiculous and would make no one’s day but my friends who could use it to make fun of me.

I even tried scoping out the neighbourhood for little old ladies to help carry their bags, but no luck yet….. I live in a young area.

So this is where you guys come in – If you have any suggestions as to how I can carry out a random act of kindness in the most effective/ least awkward way possible, leave them in the comments section.  I will take  you up on them, and then do a follow-up post with the results of my attempts. ……Which inevitably will fail cause I’m a weirdo and will probably make it weird… but it’s worth a shot, anyway:

Question of the Day: How would you pay it forward?


33 thoughts on “Pay it Forward

Add yours

  1. Is it really a random act of kindness when you have to think about it? I’m not sure about that, but I’m glad you realized that sometimes in life, we do have those Oprah moments. If only, we could see more of them. Perhaps by sharing this blog, you really have already done your part.


    1. it’s definitely not, unfortunately- I’ve totally ruined the random aspect of it entirely. But if I can still do something kind then its at least a 50% win, right? 😉


    1. That’s a good idea, but it might take awhile because whatever it is they are having trouble with has gotta be something in my wheelhouse… which I’ll admit is very limited, and mostly includes passive consumption of media and eating/drinking things. But if I ever encounter someone who needs help, say, programming their PVR, or picking out the best Pinot Grigio on a restaurant menu, I’ll be there.


  2. You could, I don’t know, help a blind person cross the street.
    And I’ve totally been the receiver of such R.A.K’s, though they’re actually more like random acts of grabbing my elbow without introducing yourself, which generally leads to awkward questions and a possible police encounter. I don’t do well with being helped. 😉


    1. If I ever get the chance I will absolutely do that- but I will make sure to introduce myself first. I’m weird and creepy enough without the added element of sneaking up someone 😉


  3. First I want to say I love your blog and your witty sense of humor. I started following it when I was looking for vegetarian blogs, and I’m glad I found yours.

    As for your question, leave a $5 bill with a short note in the cart at a grocery store or Target. My cousin once found a $100 bill this way and a note that said something about hoping he had a nice day. Now, $100 is way too steep for me but that’s your call. And you can’t select the person, nor do you have the awkwardness of it.

    Otherwise, I sometimes buy a homeless person a fresh hot lunch. Usually this goes over extremely well, except one time when I bought 4 oranges and went to give 2 to one homeless person and 2 to another, and the first one said he didn’t want any food. So I gave his 2, to the other man, who gladly accepted them.

    Another thing you could do is when you’re in the drive-thru, ask the cashier for the person behind you’s total, and pay for theirs. When they arrive at the window, they’ll be informed that their total has been taken care of.


    1. Thank you! I’m glad you found it too 🙂
      I think these are both great ideas, and I’m definitely going to do the $5 bill in the shopping cart one… What should the note say? I’d be inclined to make it say something totally ridiculous like “Purple Monkey Dishwasher Wuz Here”… but that might detract from the “kindness” aspect of it.


  4. Ha this seems very Larry David. Someone’s nice to you and all you want to do is be nice back to someone else but that causes more frustration.

    Don’t leave a note in a bathroom saying “you’re beautiful” Nobody wants to see that while they’re taking a dump. It’s creepy.

    Maybe you can do something like compliment a stranger every day for a week? Just something like say you like their shoes. Or maybe this isn’t something that should be solved so quickly. Perhaps you should wait until you know the time is right. Like if I ever needed helped with something. I like that idea.

    You could always buy Jay Mohr a car. Isn’t that what happened in the film? And everything turned out well for each person in the story.


    1. haha that’s exactly what I said to my friends! That I feel like I’m living in a real-life episode of curb your enthusiasm…. Im not sure what Larry David would do but I’m guessing it wouldn’t be a great idea to emulate him in this scenario haha.
      The compliments is a good one… but not if its a mean girls-style compliment where you say you like someone’s shoes and then immediately turn to your friends and go “omg those are the ugliest shoes ever


  5. RAKs can’t be forced or thought out in advance… don’t you know? That said, I would totally just buy somebody’s coffee at Starbucks. It’s not as awkward as you think. That, or I would keep a handful of random change in my hand while at line in Starbucks. Perhaps the person in front of you will be searching for exact change and you can just hand the barista a handful of coins and call it even. 🙂


    1. haha ugh I know but that makes it so much harder!!
      Good call on the change- I’m still waiting for my magic non-awkward moment on the buying someone’s coffee though


  6. You can’t force a RAK. You will know the right time, person, place or event to hit. You will! I have been in your shoes and felt so obligated right at that very moment. I had the opportunity to pay it forward when I least expected to do it. Unfortunately I refused to help the guy getting stung by a bee (I am deathly afraid of bees) but I did manage to get his bike out of the canal for him. Just kidding… it was nothing like that. You’ll see – you’ll know when it is time to pay it forward! In the meantime, enjoy the SBux. Good luck!


  7. Bonkers stuff. I was all relaxed after going down the gym but this story stressed me out.

    Are the queues really that long there? I honestly couldn’t be bothered with that.

    Also, did you develop fake breasts like the woman in that animated pic?


    1. haha not quite that bad but sometimes… you really need to have a strong devotion (read: addiction) to caffeine to stick it out… which I do.
      And no haha that my friend is JWow from the show Jersey Shore… which also stars the infamous Snookie I mentioned a few posts back. Both class acts, really.


  8. 1. That kid pic is hilarious. 2. I LOVE that someone paid your coffee tab. 3. I’m so guilty of paying with plastic for single digit dollar amounts on the reg, and yes I feel the need to explain with an “oh i’m so sorry I didn’t bring any cash, is this okay?? Sorry..i’m so sorry” lol

    I’m going to share your post on my Facebook page, maybe together you and I can inspire a few hundred to pay it forward today…

    If you want to see it, it will be here:


  9. How about buying a meal for a homeless person who’s out begging for change? (Although I did do this once in Santa Monica and the guy asked me why I’d gotten him a BLUEBERRY muffin while I got myself CHOCOLATE.)


  10. Just saw your post about this right now, which is totally ironic. I did this very thing today in the lineup at Tim’s except it backfired. I came in through an alternate entrance and no one was letting me into the drive thru line. Finally, after 7 or 8 cars a lady lets me cut in front of her. Being thankful, I tell the cashier I want to pay for the lady behind me because she let me in when no one else did. The cashier informed me the lady ordered two coffees. I told her that it was fine, I still wanted to pay. It came to $4.00 or something. I pulled away and since I had to wait to merge onto the street I watched in my rearview mirror as the unsuspecting lady pulls up, hands the cashier a $5.00 bill, gets her coffee and drives off. I’m not even sure the cashier told the woman!! AND SHE LET THE LADY PAY FOR HER STUFF AGAIN!! Maybe this whole RAK idea is overrated! hahahaah (I might have to blog about this….) Grrrrrrr…


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