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Local Editorials

Paying it forward

One year after I walked across the stage of C.Y. Stephens Auditorium only to receive a blank diploma cover (they wait to make sure you’ve passed your finals before handing out any sort of degree), I headed back up to Ames to see the remaining bunch of my friends do the same this past weekend.

Strapped for cash, we headed to Old Chicago for happy hour, which mostly means that appetizers are half-price and pizzas are just $3. After ordering a round of drinks, our waitress informed us that a man sitting alone at the bar had picked up our first round.

We all sort of looked around at one another, unsure of what to do. A friend of mine approached him, shook his hand and thanked him for the drinks. The man didn’t seem too interested in making conversation, though, so my friend returned to the table and we carried on with our meal.

As our food arrived though, we began to notice people from the tables around us going up to the man — who said he was from Wyoming and wore a dirty hat and trucking company T-shirt — and similarly thanking him. Our waitress clued us in that he had not only picked up the tab for our table, but for five tables around us.

It was an admittedly weird feeling. There we sat, eating free pizza and pepperoni rolls, courtesy of this mystery man, with nothing in our power to adequately thank him. After a bit of discussion, we came to the conclusion that was but one thing to do — pay it forward.

You might remember those Liberty Mutual commercials that embodied this notion. They show a series of people performing good deeds to strangers in an attempt to “pay it forward.” If you haven’t seen them, they’re worth a YouTube search.

These commercials serve as a good depiction of this concept: while you might not be able to offer anything to the man who held the elevator door for you or the lady who picked up your wallet — or even the trucker who bought your pizza — you can easily pass it along to another stranger.

It’s hard to explain, but you know if you’ve experienced it. Maybe you’re having a terrible day — you dripped toothpaste on your tie, a family of geese crossing the road makes you late for work (does this happen in Iowa? This definitely happens in Indiana), or you accidentally pick up a cup of decaf instead of your regular Red Eye (that’s a coffee with two shots of espresso — order at your own risk).

But then, the man ahead of you in the Subway line in Boone, Iowa — not that this has happened to me, or anything — pays for your lunch and scrambles out the door before you can thank him.

All the sudden, your day becomes a heck of a lot better. The sun shines a little brighter, the birds chirp a little louder, and, best of all, you have an extra $7 in your pocket.

Now, just think how very simple it would be to pass this feeling along to another. Pretty awesome, huh?

This whole situation leaves me in somewhat of a unique spot: I have this good deed, pay-it-forward credit just sitting there in my brain, waiting to pounce on my next opportunity to use it. Long story short, as soon as I get paid, one of you is getting free lunch — but only on the condition that you pay it forward as well.

Staff reporter Nicole Wiegand may be contacted at (641) 792-3121, ext. 422, or at via email.

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