Note: This column appears in the 11/20 issue of The Glendale Star, and the 11/21 issue of the Peoria Times
I’m not much of a good deed type of person. It’s not that I don’t want to perform good deeds, it’s just that doing so is not as instinctual for me as it is for others. For example, last Saturday night my wife and I were out for a drink with friends. While we were standing around talking, a very drunk man fell off of his barstool behind me. My first instinct was not to help the guy up, but to make sure everyone else saw this happen, because I thought it was funny. By the time the bouncers were hauling him outta there, the look on my wife’s face said it all -- Good deed: Unaccomplished.
Because I am apparently not the type of person to spontaneously spring into action, my good deeds must be carefully plotted out. I must create opportunities, or, at this rate, I am going to be in big trouble down the line. But here’s the other thing: Good deeds are not always accepted with open arms (evidenced by the time I tried to give a homeless man $2…also, he was not homeless), and the last thing I need is any sort of backlash for my good intentions. What to do?
Well, a couple of years ago my wife was watching the news when a segment aired about a man who had offered to pay for the person behind him at the drive-thru window of a fast food restaurant. Apparently, this gesture continued throughout the day, each person paying for the person behind them. “Pay it forward,” they called it.
To me, this was perfect. It was the chance to do a good deed, without the risk of a potentially disastrous social interaction. In fact, after hearing about it, my wife and I tried it that very next weekend, at our favorite establishment: Dunkin’ Donuts. We had big dorky smiles on our faces as we happily paid for the man behind us at the drive-thru. It was a really good feeling and it only cost us a couple of bucks.
Based on the events of last weekend, I knew that a good deed was in order, so I wanted to try this again. Unfortunately, the local Dunkin’ Donuts does not have a drive-thru window, and I typically try to steer clear of fast food. Eventually I decided to undertake this good deed at that great light tower of the needy: Starbucks.
So there I was last Monday morning sitting on the ridiculously long line at the Starbuck’s drive-thru. I looked in my rear view and saw the car behind me. One woman. Good. Though I hoped she wasn’t getting treats for her entire office. (My good deeds have financial limitations.) For some reason I was so nervously excited. It cost me an extra $3.50 or so at the window, and I was happy to pay it forward.
I sped away as fast as I could, fearing that this woman would chase me down on the highway and demand I roll down my window as she yelled, “What do think I am, poor?!” Once I knew I was in the clear, I smiled as I sipped my coffee and zoomed past a car with a flat tire on the side of the road.
“One good deed at a time,” I thought.