Paying it Forward

Last updated: April 8, 2024, at 11:30 a.m. PT

Originally published: February 8, 2024, at 1:35 p.m. PT

"Pay it Forward" on wooden blocks against a wooden table

by Roger Urbaniak

Outdoorsman & Author

YMCA Community Partner 


I had heard the concept of paying it forward before, but until I personally experienced it in action, it was merely an abstract concept that I did not participate in. An experience quite recently changed all that.

Gas is usually over $1.00 per gallon cheaper in CleElum than in Seattle, so during my frequent travels across Snoqualmie Pass, I attempt to have my gas tank nearly empty when I drive through there to take full advantage of their price. When I pulled into my normal Safeway gas pump and reached for my wallet and credit card, I was shocked to find that I had left my wallet at home. As I calculated the miles to Selah/Yakima, where I had banking deposits, my car's gas indicator light warning light informed me that I would run out of gas before I traveled the roughly 50 miles that I needed to drive to reach there. 

While driving through town unsuccessfully seeking either Wells Fargo or Banner Bank's presence, I contemplated my situation and assets. When I discovered that I had $1.17 in loose change in my car's change drawer, I felt that if I used the money for a  gas purchase, I might get pretty close to town and could either walk or hitchhike to my bank and a gas station and then return to the car. It was cold out, however, so this prospect was still not very inviting.

The last gas station in CleElum before the freeway was a small mini-market. While spreading my pennies, nickels, and dimes on the counter, I volunteered to the cashier the reason for my purchase, explaining I was trying to get to Selah, where I could get cash for more gas. The female attendant smiled and explained that she knew through experience the problem I had and then proceeded to add $4.00 to my gas purchase amount; enough to get me to my destination. Feeling more than grateful, I volunteered that I expected to be able to pay the amount back before the end of the day. Her reply indicated that this would be nice but not really necessary. I was truly struck by this kindness and did not really know what more to say from there. 

Banner Bank in Selah readily gave me cash from an account that I had. I completed my business in town, purchased enough gas to get me back to CleElum, and proceeded to head there. When I reached the gas station where I was befriended, I filled my tank, returned the $4.00, plus gave the attendant an extra $5.00 while expressing my wish that this be used to help the next person who had a similar need.

Reflecting on my experience, I realized that I likely could have called a friend and had them use their credit card to buy gas for me and then repaid them. Hiding some emergency money in the car would also have solved my problem. I am glad, however, that I did not think of either solution first because if I had done so, I would have missed my opportunity to see people helping someone in need. The experience of being the recipient of kindness extended to a stranger has now made me a believer in paying it forward. Perhaps someday, I will have the opportunity to extend kindness and understanding to a fellow traveler on their life journey, and they will feel sufficient gratitude to pay it forward themselves. Somehow, I think the world around us would be a nicer place if this should happen.


Category: Y Spirit