Paying it forward (in addition to being the title of a flick starring the creepy kid who sees dead people and Helen Hunt as a less-than-believable strip club waitress) is a thing people actually do. Basically, it's when one human does a good deed for another, and the recipient then passes the kindness along to someone else, thus spreading the concept as far and wide as possible.
One common way to pay it forward is by buying for the person behind you in the drive-thru. And in towns across the country, people have started pay-it-forward chain reactions that have gone on for hours -- even days. In Detroit recently, a Starbucks made the news when more than 50 people paid it forward. But what about Miami? Do we have the spirit of giving in us?
I'm a fan of the pay-it-forward concept and try to do it as often as I can. It's certainly a semiselfish move on my part, given that it totally makes my day as much (or more than) the other person's. There's just something about surprising someone in a happy way. I freaking love it.
But here in Miami, I've gotten some reactions that make me question the way we're treating each other on the regular.
Once, at a Starbucks drive-thru, the cashier was shocked. Pleasantly so. "You're doing that HERE?" He regaled me with tales of irate customers (given the location's awkward and often congested spot on U.S. 1) and the time he saw one car rear-end another in line.
Another time, the lady I bought coffee for began crying. She told me she'd started an organization designed to spread acts of kindness. The idea was that she'd give people wristbands when she saw them doing something nice. She stopped carrying them around, however, because she almost never saw kind gestures in South Florida.
It's no secret that Miamians aren't the friendliest folks, but the real question is, Why? Why do so many of us seem unhappy when we live in a tropical paradise? Shouldn't Miami top the list of the nation's happiest cities? (It doesn't.) Why do we have to be assholes to one another? I get it -- I'm not always nice either, particularly when the roads are a hideous highway to Hell or I have a run-in with a douchebag. But I do try to fight the unfriendly in favor of the alternative.
This is a bigger issue than buying someone a cup of coffee. It's about our fundamental attitude as a city, and especially toward one another. There's no question we could be nicer, gentler, and more open to the people around us. Spend five minutes in traffic and that becomes painfully clear.
Everyone complains about the rude drivers, the discourteous shoppers, the thoughtless waiters -- but we all have to be a part of the solution. The smallest gestures, when paid forward, can make a big difference.
So I want to issue a challenge to my fellow Miamians. Pay it forward at least once this week -- in the Starbucks line, at the grocery store, in traffic. Buy someone a cup of coffee, let someone in at a red light, give a homeless dude a few bucks. And tell us about it. If it costs only $5 to make someone's day, isn't it worth it?
If you like this story, consider signing up for our email newsletters.
SHOW ME HOW
I'm sick of hearing about how rude and unfriendly Miami is. There are wonderful people here, and we can all be nicer to one another. It's gotta start somewhere. Why not with you and me and an eggnog latte?
Follow Hannah on Twitter @hannahalexs.