Pay It Forward


Question 25:
Describe a moment when you “paid it forward.” What happened and how did it feel?

I’m reposting this from my older blog because, even though I know this is a challenge to blog/write, I want to share this story 🙂

A woman knocked on our door today. She was shaking, seemingly from crying, and she asked to use the phone.

“My husband is chasing me,” she said. “Please can I use your phone? Last week he hit me on the forehead with a chair. He hit my knee. I can’t walk straight. He usually don’t come around this area. I feel weird knocking on a house I don’t know, but he’s coming. Please, I just need to use your phone.”

“I can’t let you in,” I said, “but you can use the phone.” Thank You God for cordless phones.

It took her a while to remember the number of her friend.

“Maybe you should call the cops,” I offered.

“No, not yet,” she said. She fumbled with the numbers on the phone. Her ears perked up. “I think that’s his truck. What’s her number? I was just there.”

She finally dialed, asked to be picked up and driven to Monica’s house, and gave directions on where she was.

“Are you sure you’ll be safe walking?” I asked.

“Yes, thank you.”

She turns to leave. I point to the ground. “You dropped your lighter.”

“Oh. I’m such a mess. Thank you. Thank you,” she said and left.

A minute later, our phone rings.

“Can I speak to Elena?” asked a male caller.

“Sorry, wrong number,” I said.

“It’s the woman who just called using your phone,” he said.

“Oh. She’s not here anymore.”

“Okay,” he said. “Be careful with her. She’s on drugs. That’s why I’m trying to get her situated, but….”

“Oh, okay.”

“Okay, thanks,” he said and hung up.

Would you knock on a stranger’s door? Would you open your door to a stranger?
On one hand, it could be a divine appointment. On the other, you could get roped into possible domestic and/or substance abuse. Which, some could argue, is a divine appointment of its own: God sending you someone who really needs help, one way or another. But are we prepared to give that kind of help? Because ladies and gents, with those kinds of issues, prayer is not enough. It requires action from the right kinds of people like drug counselors or the police. And I wonder how many churches are prepared for that kind of action, how many can give prayer and the right kind of help?

Because someone might come knocking on our doors.

It’s not quite the “pay it forward” story you might expect, because I only lent her a phone and I’m not sure how much help that was. Up to this day, I’m not sure how true her story was but I hope and pray she received the right kind of help from the right kind of people.

Which would say that I’m not the right kind of person. To lend her a phone, yes. To give her the help she really needs, no. I felt so inexperienced and helpless when dealing with her. I didn’t know what to expect. I couldn’t determine if she told any lies. I was unsure about letting her walk away, but after learning she was on drugs, I wondered if I did the right thing. Was it dangerous for her to be on her own, or was it more dangerous for me if she was around?

I still don’t have any answers, and I tell this story because when we “pay it forward,” it’s usually accompanied by a great feel good story. But helping outside our comfort zone is, well, uncomfortable. It can leave us feeling uneasy, lacking, and wondering how big the bubble we live in really is. Did we even make a difference? Did I?

You know why I didn’t slam the door on her? Because I once knocked on a stranger’s door. I was lost. It was night time. I had no GPS or smartphone. I pulled into a very dark street and chose a house with its lights on. I asked for directions to the address where my class was meeting and, lo and behold, the man that answered knew exactly what company resided on that address and how to get there. I left elated, but I still got lost. It’s not their fault I’m lousy with directions, and that the city was in the middle of several road construction renovations. I ended up finding my way home and skipping class.

But what are the chances that the house I picked had a family that knew exactly how to get me where I needed to go? I say it’s God-chances. So even though all I could do was lend a woman a phone, maybe it was God that led her to the house that wouldn’t dismiss her away.

Paying it forward won’t always be easy and won’t always leave us feeling good. But it’s worth it. We may never find out if we made a difference or not. That family doesn’t know that after giving me specific directions, I still got lost and never made it to my destination. Similarly, I don’t know if the phone call helped the woman get to safe place. But what if it did?

1 thought on “Pay It Forward

I'd love to hear from you!