Paying it Forward

by Catie Hayes of

Some days you have to wonder if there is any decency left in the world; every store clerk scowls, cars cut you off in traffic, and telemarketers argue that you really do need vinyl siding. Then, there days when little surprises throw that notion out the door.

Last week, I drove the kids into the city to see the circus. Now, in general, circuses are part of every childhood. My kids, in particular, however, have been living through what hardly constitutes a normal childhood this past year. If anyone needs a magical diversion, they certainly qualify.

I packed them into the car on a cold rainy morning, explaining we were embarking on a mystery ride. Traffic was heavy, and an hour and a half later we finally pulled into Boston. I was a bit stressed as our tickets were being held by a member of our homeschooling group. If we were late there was a good chance they would go into the tent with her. Now, navigating downtown Boston is not my idea of a good time, but I was a woman on a mission for her kids. I found a ton a lots near the circus tent, but the area was littered with construction dividers making it unclear whether I could park and then walk across the street to the circus.

I pulled over to ask a construction worker for advise. He just looked into the car and asked 'You going to the circus?' Shaking off my I can't be late cuz my kids really need a day without therapists and divorce lawyers and we have to get our tickets frenzy for just a second, I just said 'Uh, yeah'. Then he asked 'those your kids?' to which I volunteered 'I certainly hope so', impatiently thinking, "Dude, can I get over there from here????" Well, instead of the answer I wanted, this man simply said "Park over there behind my truck, otherwise you'll have to pay to park the whole day". He pointed to an open space in the reserved lot.

Long story short, we parked, got our tickets in time for the show, and the boys were just average children for two hours on a rainy morning in the city.

I tried looking for that man after we left the show, but couldn't find him anywhere. I'm sure he didn't give it second thought, but he did a lot of good that morning for three complete strangers. I did thank him before parking, but would have loved for him to know just how much his kindness meant. If he had seen my youngest on my lap, clutching my arm with one hand and running his fingers through my hair with the other, mouth open and eyes transfixed on the trapeze artists, he would have known. If he had seen my oldest holding his ribs from laughing so hard at the clowns, he would have known. If he had seen my eyes tearing up as I watched my kids without a single care for a few hours, he would have known.

It was a wonderful example of how powerful a simple smile, a word of encouragement or a random act of kindness can be.

Copyright 2003

About the Author : Catie Hayes is founder/editor of; a community of support, spirituality, growth and empowerment for women. She is a freelance writer, the single homeschooling mom of two, and an avid fan of laughter, cats and chocolate (not necessarily in that order).

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