I learned to pay it forward early. I was six years old and a nickel short of the candy I wanted. As I was trying to decide whether to give up the bubble gum or the Tootsie Roll, a man plunked a nickel on the counter for me and smiled. I don’t remember what he said, but I got the lesson. Been paying it forward ever since.

Yesterday, sixty years later, I was in a store trying on medically necessary, expensive tennis shoes. Another customer came over to me. Perhaps he’d noticed my raggedy shoes.

Tom's ShoesHe asked me what size shoe I wore. Baffled, I said 10-and-a-half. He suggested I try on his shoes. He explained he’d worn them for a couple months and had decided he’d rather wear loafers.

His shoes were pretty much what I was looking for. It was weird. He was from a different world than the one I live in, but he seemed sincere. He said his name was Doug.

To be polite, I tried on the shoes. They fit better than the new ones I was trying. He told me I could have them for free if I wanted.

Had to think that through …

1. He wanted to “pay it forward” and “be Christian”, and those are things I like to encourage in other people (regardless of their religion).

2. I work in a homeless shelter, which is both my primary source of income and part of my way of paying it forward for the times I’ve been homeless. I get by, but I don’t have money to throw around.

Ultimately, I decided the shoes fit.

So, thanks Doug! The shoes fit great. I’m wearing them now. – Tom 🙂

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