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Paying it forward is a real Random Act of Kindness

November 1, 2009
By SANDY MICKELSON, Messenger staff writer

A bunch of years ago the universal idea of Random Acts of Kindness exploded onto the American psyche.

People bought coffee for the guys in the cars behind them at drive-throughs. They popped extra change in toll-booth slots to pay for the next car or two in line. I heard of people buying lunch in a restaurant for a stranger.

Random Acts of Kindness. Being nice to someone for no other reason than to be nice to them.

I loved that idea.

It's the same idea as the Pay It Forward program born as part of the Character Counts Week here in Dodge. A story on that ran back on Oct. 18, telling about the six projects brought about with seed money of $50 with the only direction to do something for someone else.

Character Counts is an initiative of the Healthy Living department at Trinity Regional Medical Center. Pam Bunte is coordinator. She told recipients of the seed money that it was theirs to use "for the sole purpose of making a difference to a person, a family or an organization in need. The choice is entirely up to you."

After reading about the program, Cheryl O'Hern, local manager of Frontier Communications, contacted Bunte because she thought the Pay It Forward project fit exactly what Frontier wanted to do. O'Hern contacted the McDonald's restaurants owner Corey Kasch to tell him what she planned.

Frontier would pay for coffee for the first 50 drive-throughs on Oct. 23, with the only stipulation being those coffee drinkers would be asked to pay for favor forward.

Kasch, it seems, liked the idea so much, he added 50 more free coffees in each of his stores. That's a lot of free coffee, and the idea of paying it forward seemed likely to be continued since getting a free cuppa joe would make anyone happy.

"It's snowballing the way it's supposed to do," Bunte said. "More people are doing more."

Those paying it forward ideas, those Random Acts of Kindness, often are found in America's heartland, especially in the fall. Case in point, the e-mail note I received last week from a woman named Linda Sanck.

It seems she and her husband were driving in the country on a "beautiful October Monday" to watch the corn crop being harvested. "What a sight it was," she wrote. "Four huge combines, with tractors and grain wagons alongside, crawled through the fields devouring the rows of corn. We saw many trucks, wagons and semis carrying the crop to the elevators, where they waited in line to unload their precious golden cargo.

"We parked alongside the road to watch over 50 generous people come together to finish what one gentleman had started in the spring. These people were friends, neighbors and some strangers come to help. As we watched, tears came to our eyes; what a sight to behold."

She even got to ride in one of the combines, where, she said, "the world looks different from that view."

The man who offered the ride didn't even know the man who had passed away, whose fields he helped harvest, but he told her "it could happen to any one of us."

The helping for the sake of helping, that's a Random Act of Kindness. That's paying it forward at its best.

No wonder Sanck had tears in her eyes.

So long friends, until the next time when we're together.

Contact Sandy Mickelson at (515) 573-2141 or



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