I’d been hearing about the various “pay it forward” events which had been happening all over America, people buying coffee for the people in line behind them, paying off layaway Christmas presents for families in need at Target, covering the toll for another car… all these kinds of things.
Then this video from Westjet showed up:
And it made think of this commercial from Liberty Mutual about the idea of simple acts of kindness and how they can change the world.
In 2010, my friend Rick Maue, a magician and mentalist, decided to start an annual “Beyond Imagination Day.” On the 30th anniversary of the murder of John Lennon, he figured it was a great time to reach out to someone, to let the world know you want to make it a better place.
So with all this in mind, I decided to try something. I wanted to buy coffee for a bunch of strangers. I told a local friend what I wanted to do and she laughed and told me it wouldn’t work in Lithuania. No one would get it, she said.
I persevered. I went to my local coffee shop, where I spend a great deal of time, and talked to my friends who worked there and tried to explain the idea to them. I handed over a little bit of money and explained I wanted to buy coffee for however many people it would cover. I tried to explain to just use it for the next people who showed up (unlike America, there’s almost never a line at a coffee place). Then I had to explain I didn’t want anyone to know it was from me. I told them to just say “Santa” had bought their coffee.
Then I went about my own business and did what I had to do that day.
When I returned the next day, the friend I had left the money with was behind the counter along with another girl who worked there. The second girl told me she thought my idea was great… then showed me a cup where they had put the money. It seems something had gotten lost in translation and the girls decided that rather than just randomly distribute the funds to whoever happened to walk through the door, they were going to play, too. They used the money to buy coffee for people who were struggling, who were having a bad day, people who just needed a cup of coffee.
In all, it took about 3 weeks to buy about 10 cups of coffee for complete strangers. It was interesting to watch my barista friends as they would describe the look of joy and delight on someone’s face when they were told their coffee was going to be free today. One even said she was going to add some of her own, and do this herself, which is guess is the point.
My original goal was to try and “pay it forward” with coffee. I’m not sure that intent worked. I’m not sure this culture quite understands the idea of doing something with no tangible reward for someone who doesn’t even know you did it. But for my barista’s, who were a part of my experiment, I think they got it. I think they understand a little bit more. And that makes me happy.
Of course, to them, I’m still the weird, crazy american, but I’m okay with that.