Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Feel the Money, Part Three: Pay it Forward

          For some reason, this is the most difficult blog entry of this series to write. Partly because I have been in a funk (a creative word for being depressed), which means that I don’t want to write and I don’t want to expend any extra energy, and partly because I have been so busy. But mostly because everything that happened, everything that I want to express, is still swirling in my mind like an untamed wind.
For the past month, I have watched and waited for the moment when I felt led to give the cash provided by the church, praying for the right person at the right time in the right place. On the one hand, I know that it could have been anyone one at any time in any place; however, I wanted the giving to matter.
          In the meantime, a lot has happened.
To begin with, someone from our church helped us. One Sunday night after we had arrived home from Momentum, extra cash magically appeared in our workbook. I was surprised yet grateful. Because I wanted my giving to matter, I decided that this giving had to matter as well; therefore, I put half of it towards the $1000 emergency fund that Dave Ramsey says is the first step. It felt good to have a little bit of a buffer—safer and more secure having even a small amount of savings. We used the other half for groceries.
At the same time, I wanted to honor the gift that person had chosen to offer us: the gift of consideration and kindness and the spirit of paying it forward. I was inspired; thus, I decided to use some of my next paycheck to help someone else. During this whole process, I’ve asked my daughters for ideas of who and when and where to help, and Laina asked over and over again for us to help a friend of hers go to the homecoming dance at high school. We had a conversation about how the dance was a want, not a need and how I felt led to use the church’s money for needs, not wants. Still, I could tell that it was important for Laina to help her friend, and we also discussed the importance of finding balance between our needs and wants. In other words, sometimes prioritizing fun. So, we all worked together. Lexi found an old (but beautiful and very nice) Dillard’s dress in her closet that she offered to give away, so we invited the friend over to try it on. The dress fit perfectly, and she looked radiant and so excited to have a lovely dress. Then, I provided the money from my own income for Laina to purchase her and her friend tickets to the dance. They were so happy for the opportunity and had a wonderful evening.
And then, Lexi went away to college in NYC, which is awesome and amazing, I know. I am very happy for Lexi and love that she is living her dream. And yet. Yet. Yet. I’m not ready to write about it, but this is the cause of the current funk and is so difficult.
On a positive note, Lexi has a “host” family in NYC who has been so kind, welcoming, and giving to her. Also, many family and friends have sent Lexi cards and notes and even gift cards and goodies since she has arrived at college, and she says that the other students remark on how often she gets packages. We are so thankful for all of you and feel so blessed!
Lexi flew to NY on a Monday, and that same week I prepared a presentation for an out of town conference for work. During those preparations, I was offered an extra, last-minute eight-week class. I am beyond grateful for the opportunity, which is definitely an answer to my prayers. Now I not only have enough to make ends meet but also have extra, and I am thankful. Still, I had to quickly prepare a new class during the same week as the conference, which was stressful to say the least.
I wonder how much connection there is between my giving to Laina’s friend and then receiving to help my girls?!
Weekend before last, I finally saw what I had been waiting for—a sign. I had just ordered a meal for myself, and behind me, I saw a woman counting out one dollar bills. It appeared as though she was worried she might not have enough, so when she ordered, I said that I wanted to pay for her meal. At first, she viewed me with disbelief, but I repeated it.
“I shouldn’t let you do that,” she said.
With her words, it struck me: receiving is hard. Often times we like the power and control of being the one to give. Just recently, a family friend said to me, “Be a good receiver, Rachel. That’s also a Christian virtue.” At the time, I brushed it aside, but now I thought, maybe he was right.
I convinced the woman that I really wanted to pay for her meal, that all I asked was for her to ‘pay it forward’ someday, and told her to order whatever she wanted. She said that what she’d already ordered was fine, but as I paid, she thanked me profusely, saying, “You’ve just made my day.” She turned to the cashier and nearly shouted, “She’s paying for my meal. Can you believe it?!” This woman was extremely grateful and that felt fantastic. As we got our meal and went our separate ways, I discovered that I was beaming. I also left a $20 tip for the waitress.
The most amazing thing was how paying it forward made me feel, and I finally got it. One woman left with a free meal while the other left with $20 cash, but I was the real winner that day because I left feeling full. In that moment and for the rest of that day, my heart felt full, my life felt full, and I felt full.
Paying it forward will be a vital part of our lives in this household: both as givers and receivers. When we receive, we not only get the help/kindness/money/stuff, but we also allow other people’s hearts and lives to become fuller. When we give, we not only have fuller hearts and lives, but we also allow others the chance for, perhaps, much needed kindness/help/money/stuff.
Paying it forward is a win-win.

Side note: The rest of the church’s cash stayed with me for another week, and last weekend, I used it to provide groceries for a single mom and her family. Without that money, they would not have had groceries for lunches this week. Again, giving not only literally helped that family, but it also filled up our hearts and lives for another week.

The FinancialPeace University class is now over. While I was too overwhelmed/down to attend the last few classes, I learned so much from the first half that I want to take the entire class again this spring and continue learning and applying this information. I am continuing to save towards a $1000 emergency fund and am still using cash to pay for gas and groceries every week rather than swiping the debit card with no thought. I practice feeling the money and am much more conscious of what I am spending and what my priorities and motivations are. Ultimately, I am beginning to change to more positive spending, saving, giving habits, and I am enjoying the process. While I am definitely not yet debt free, I have more of a sense of hope and peace regarding current money habits and future financial freedom.


  1. So you only had $50, but bought Laina and her friend's dance tickets, paid a $20 tip, bought a woman a free meal, and had money left over to spend on groceries for a single mom and her family? or did I count things I shouldn't have? did this money grow from the time you first got it at church? lots of nice examples of how people help each other here!

    1. Hi, Donna. I was inspired by another person's gift to us, so I used my own income to pay for the dance tickets! The $50 from the church paid for one woman's meal, a $20 tip, and a single mom's lunch groceries for her family this week. I do think this shows, though, how money CAN be stretched and used in a lot of ways! Thanks for reading! :)