If you’ve ever been the recipient of an act of kindness, perhaps you’ve felt the internal nudge to “pay it forward” out of gratitude.
One woman experienced a very clear show of that on Sept. 9 when she took her daughter to McDonald’s.
Joanne Anderson, 42, is a hospice worker at St. John’s and lives in Wirral, Northwest England. Her 6-year-old daughter, Emily, was recently diagnosed with hypothyroidism, and the treatment she is on tends to affect her mood and often makes her upset.
Emily had a doctor’s appointment that day, so the two stopped at a McDonald’s in Birkenhead. While Emily waited at a table, Anderson went to place their order — but observed someone in need.
The story that follows is simple but heartfelt, a little ray of sunshine during a time when so many people are afraid to reach out to others.
As Anderson went up, she noticed a young woman who appeared to be in her 20s and seemed to be having trouble paying for her meal. According to the Liverpool Echo, Anderson later found out she was homeless.
“She didn’t have enough money at first for what she wanted to buy, so I gave her [50 pence, about 68 US cents],” Anderson told the Echo. “I had some change in my purse.
“She got to the counter, and as she was ordering, something must have happened and Emily came over and she was really upset.
“I think she was just upset that I was taking a long time. So she came over and she was crying.”
The homeless woman saw Emily having a difficult time, and quickly handed the leftover change she’d had from her purchase.
“She gave it to Emily and she said to her, ‘Aw don’t be upset, here’s some pennies for you to go and spend in the shop,’ which was just — I don’t know how to put it,” Anderson said.
“I was a bit overwhelmed by it, because it was obvious she didn’t have anything because I’d already given her some money.
“And then for her to give her last four [pence] to my daughter because she was upset, it was lovely.”
Some readers have rolled their eyes at this move being classified as an act of kindness, since Anderson had given her the money in the first place — but it was nonetheless an act of generosity. Anderson had given her that money, no strings attached. The stranger could have kept it and no one would have questioned it.
It was only four pence, and only what she had been given, but it appeared to be everything the woman had at the moment. It may be a small amount, but relatively speaking, it was a grand gesture, not unlike the widow in the Bible who gave her two mites.
Overwhelmed by the unexpected turn and the gentleness shown to her daughter, Anderson bought the young woman a Coke (which she’d noticed she wasn’t able to get earlier) and the three sat near each other and talked for half an hour.
Anderson learned a bit more about the woman and her dreams. They parted the better for having met each other.
It was also a great opportunity to teach Emily about kindness.
“I said to Emily, ‘You know, she’s given you that 4p because you were upset, and if you ever see anybody that’s upset, you should always try and help them,” she recalled.
“Especially in school, if anyone’s upset in school, help them. You know, that type of thing. Always try and be nice to people, because I think there’s too much negativity. It’s a cruel world at the best of times.”
They’ve kept the four pence as a memento, and Emily guards it. The incident clearly made an impact on her.
“That was probably one of the nicest things a stranger has ever done for my child,” Anderson said. “Because in that moment, she stopped crying and she was happy.”
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