I have a humiliating story.

Years ago in NorCal, I was in a rush for a meeting and made the rash decision to stop by Starbucks before it started. It was the main Bucks in town and there was always, ALWAYS a line.

I placed my order and sped up to the window. “No charge,” the rosy cheeked barista grinned. “The woman in front of you bought your coffee.”

Say whaaaaat? Sweet! I waved at the woman as she left the parking lot, snatched my coffee and sped off to my meeting. 

Later that day, I had the local news on in the background while I wrapped things up in my office.

The next segment caught my attention. It was about a pay it forward chain that had lasted hours at the local Starbucks. That morning, one generous person bought the person’s coffee behind them and “it created a chain reaction of paying it forward, where each person bought the coffee of the person behind them, continuously, for several hours. The chain ended at approximately 3 PM,” the newscaster said.  

I um, ordered my coffee at 2:57 PM. I know because my meeting was at 3 PM and I was in a hot panic about it.


Suddenly the barista’s disappointed look as I sped off flashed before my eyes. I didn’t pay it much attention at the time, but  things were adding up.

All I could do was thank God they didn’t describe me like a wanted felon.

Curly haired woman, in grossly oversized sunglasses yet to be identified, just took her gifted coffee and peeled out of the parking lot, ending the wonderful day long flow of gratitude at the local Starbucks.

I learned something important that day. When we don’t pay our blessings forward, we stop the flow. The blessing never grows.

My mom says gratitude should cost you something. Time, resources, energy. That’s what makes it sweet. Take the time to write a personal, handwritten note. Return the favor with homemade scones. Send them a picture of you wearing the gift, even if it’s ugly and shows your navel. And when it’s one of those blessings, something you desperately needed and someone steps up to be that miracle, make a promise to pay it forward.

And don’t peel out of the parking lot.

True gratitude will cost us something. As it should.


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