The plan was that me, my friend, and 5 children under the age of 6 would go to the zoo for super cheap because my friend had season passes. Sounds perfect! Before we even left the house I could tell my friend was having a bad day. Just one of those days where you wonder why you ever thought having children was a good idea.
We arrive at the Phoenix zoo and it’s packed. Fuller than I’ve ever seen it. We had to park in the super far parking lot, you know… the one that isn’t even paved. So we trek to the front gate pushing strollers and carrying enough stuff that someone might think we are going camping. We wait in line for what seemed like 45 mins and when we get about 5 people from the front my friend realizes she can’t find her wallet. She digs around in her overstuffed back pack but it doesn’t turn up. She starts to panic so we pull the caravan over to the side and she starts to just unload everything. The backpack, the diaper bag, the under the stroller storage area… nothing. She runs back to the car while I watch the kids. Nothing. Now she’s freaking out. She goes through her bags again, no luck.
So she breaks it to the kids that we won’t be going to the zoo. They start crying. Which makes my friend start crying. Which makes me start crying. We were doing that weird laughing crying thing because the whole situation was just ridiculous. The kids were disappointed and my friend was frazzled and I was just feeling bad for everyone.
Then a lady comes up behind me and takes my hand. She says “Here, take your kids to the zoo.” When she walks away I realize that she left a $100 bill in my hand. $100! I go find her in line and try to give it back. I explain that my friend just lost her wallet and we aren’t going to go the zoo either way and that we really didn’t need the money. She refuses to take it back. My friend goes and tries to give it back. She refuses again.
So we make the mile long hike back to our cars. While my friend was packing up the car she found her wallet in the trunk. Which was a huge relief. Now that she didn’t have to run home and deal with that mess we decided to just go to the park and have a picnic lunch, which turned out very nice.
As we were leaving the park I thought about breaking the $100 bill and just handing out $20 to people. How fun would that have been?! But I actually felt embarassed to do that. Who would think it would take bravery to give away money? For me it does I guess.
We agreed that we would spend the money doing something fun for the kids since we missed going to the zoo. But that never happened. For two or three years the money sat in my sock drawer. We never did anything with it, but I also couldn’t spend it since it wasn’t my money. It was our money as a group.
For a long time that’s how the story ended, with my sock drawer being $100 richer. That always bothered me. It was not a fitting ending for such an amazing act of generosity.
Paying it Forward
And then the great recession hit. Another one of my friend’s husband got laid off and after a solid six months of looking still had no job leads. The summer was coming to a close and I knew that my friend had 4 kids to get ready for school with a very tight budget. So I asked my zoo going friend if she minded if I gave my other friend the $100. She was all for it! It had already been arranged that I was going to give her a bag of hand-me-down clothes. I typed up a letter explaining the history of the money, put it and the money in an envelope and dropped it off along with the bag of clothes. I was all prepared with a speech about paying it forward but luckily she just called to say thank you.
I LOVE that the lady who gave us the money did that. I’m just positive that she carries around a $100 bill for situations like that. So she can help people if the time arises. $100 is enough money to actually change someone’s situation if they are stuck. It will fill a tank of gas. It will get a room for the night. It will replace a flat tire. It will feed a family. It will take a couple of crazy women and their kids to the zoo.
Do you have a story about paying it forward?