Lay Ministry Blog: Pay it Forward


Recently, I was having dinner at a Red Lobster in Bowling Green, Kentucky with my 95-year-old father. This is one of his favorite restaurants, along with Cracker Barrel. So for Christmas and his birthday family members give him gift certificates to these and other favorite restaurants. Normally, during my monthly visit to Kentucky, I become the benefactor of the gift certificates with him as we go to out for dinner.

With this month being Valentine’s Day, the holiday of Love, we were shown much love at Red Lobster.

After we had eaten, I told the waitress, Brea, that we were ready to pay for the meal and that I had a gift certificate. She said she would be back shortly with our bill. When she returned she was smiling from ear to ear, as we say in Kentucky.

Brea said she had some good news for us. A gentleman in the restaurant had paid for our dinner and included the tip. I immediately inquired if the gentlemen were still in the restaurant and she said, “no.” She explained that occasionally this gentleman would come in to have dinner and when he started to pay his bill, he would single out a table and tell his server he also wanted to pay for their meal anonymously. He would then pay and leave before the benefactors could identify him.

She said other servers had the same thing happen to customers they were serving and that the key for the man was the anonymity of the gift. My father said once he and my mother had been treated this same way at Cracker Barrel by a couple seated nearby whom they did not know.

Our waitress Brea said this act of kindness made her day. She said this was a great gift with no strings attached.

This story makes me think of the “Pay it Forward” craze that happens sometimes at fast food drive-thru lines when people pay for the next person in line after them. This also, happens at some of the large retail stores that have layaway programs. A complete stranger anonymously pays the balance for a person who has put Christmas gifts on layaway. When the customer comes to the store to finish paying their balance and pick up the gifts they find that their bill has mysteriously been paid in full.

These are great acts of Christian love, that cannot be taken for granted. We should be very grateful for the people are out there doing acts of kindness for others without any fanfare.

Is this not what Jesus did for us when he gave his life for us on the cross some 2000 years ago? All he asks is that we be grateful and acknowledge the ultimate gift of grace and acknowledge that he is the Son of God and the Savior of the World.

Life does not have to be any more complex than being nice to people, being aware of other’s needs and occasionally paying it forward to our children, family, fellow workers or someone we know or don’t know.

Happy Valentine’s Day to all! Remember God is your Valentine,
Steve Lyles
Conference Lay Leader

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