“Pay it forward” is a concept that we all acknowledge, but don’t always follow through with. Maybe a stranger paid for your dinner at a nice restaurant one day, or maybe you held the door open for an elderly man trying to exit a building. Sure, they were kind gestures and you remember them for a while, but you have no way of knowing if they went any farther than that one moment. For this woman, she saw the results of her one action…nearly 30 years later!
The teacher was young and enthusiastic, in her first year of teaching.
The school she was assigned to was in one of the poorest towns in the province of Havana. Water was scarce. Most of it came from wells located on one side of town. She saw people around the school carrying buckets of water every day for use in their houses. The children were always clean no matter how old, tattered or patched their clothing was.
The teacher’s favorite pupil was a nine-year-old girl with brown hair and expressive eyes. She smiled all the time. She was always tidy and her hair well-combed. Her dress was washed and ironed but her shoes were almost gone. The teacher didn’t believe much more could be done for them. By the beginning of the second semester, the little girl’s shoes were nothing more than rags wrapped around her feet.
That weekend the teacher bought a rand-new pair of shoes for the little girl. They were made of genuine leather and had a bow on top. They looked lovely on the girl’s feet.
At the end of the school year, the teacher was successful in her bid to transfer to the city of Havana to a school where most children came from a better background. She taught there for over thirty years until she retired and began devoting her time to reading and writing.
One day she was taken to a small private clinic with double pneumonia. She had been paying her membership quota at the clinic for years but had never used it. She was surprised at the good services and attention she received from the clinic’s personnel. It seemed as if the doctors and nurses were going out of their way to please her. One day, she told another patient how satisfied she was with the care she was receiving at the place.
“You can certainly say so,” the other lady said. “I will say, since you’ve been coming, the rest of us have been treated more kindly, also.”
“What are you trying to imply?” the teacher asked. “I’m nobody important, and I don’t know anyone here. Why would they give me more attention?”
“Well, ask if you don’t believe me.”
That evening, when her favorite nurse came to see her, the teacher asked, “Is it true that I have been given special attention here?”
“Yes, it is,” the nurse answered. “The director, Dr. Mendez, asked us to take good care of you.”
Mendez was a very common name, and the teacher didn’t remember anyone in particular with that name. Upon dismissal, she decided to thank Dr. Mendez personally. She knocked at her door.
“Come in,” a voice said.
Upon entering, the teacher saw an attractive lady in her forties, who smiled at her.
“Dr. Mendez, I came to thank you for ordering your staff to take care of me in such a wonderful way. How can I repay you?”
“You repay me?” the director said. “I’m the one trying to repay you.”
“I don’t understand. I don’t remember having met you before.”
“Oh, but you have, my dear. You were my inspiration, my role model. You were the motor which propelled me to strive for a better future. You gave me the desire to improve myself and my lot. I owe you everything I am and have achieved in life.”
“But I don’t see how…”
“You don’t remember me, do you? I’m that poor girl for whom, one day, you bought a brand-new pair of shoes, the most precious leather shoes in the whole wide world.”
This folklore has been around for years and years. The story, the settings, the time period, and the characters change with each new generation, becoming relevant to spread one important moral: “pay it forward.” Do for others what you would want done for you. Help your neighbor, be kind to those around you. Make a difference. This story is incredibly sweet, and whether or not it is true, we can all appreciate the message behind it! 🙂
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