Paying it Forward: A Thanksgiving Story

This week, Kate Phillips of Total Wealth Coaching contributed a guest post about her most memorable Thanksgiving – one that didn’t go as planned!

“You can’t pay anyone back for what has happened to you, so you try to find someone you can pay forward.”
-An anonymous Alcoholics Anonymous spokesperson, as quoted in the Christian Science Monitor in 1944.

Do you have a favorite Thanksgiving memory? As much as I love gathering with family and friends to enjoy a delicious holiday feast, one of my now-favorite Thanksgiving memories came disguised (or, at least, part of it) as a Terrible, Awful, No Good, Very Bad Day.

After enduring years of long Thanksgiving ferry lines to commute to my parents’ home, I decided to short-cut the process by boarding the ferry as a walk-on passenger and get picked up on the other side. Unfortunately, hundreds of other holiday travelers had the same idea, and the ferry passenger parking lot was full to overflowing, as was the street parking. I finally parked at a nearby mini-mall parking lot that was safely closed for the day, where other travelers were also parking. I grabbed my sweet potato dish and caught the ferry.

Many hours later, I returned by way of the same ferry. It was dark, cold, rainy, and I was a bit perturbed that I hadn’t made a better mental note as to exactly where my car was parked. I wandered around the parking lot casually at first, then methodically up and down the now-sparse rows of cars, but with no luck.

Finally a couple with two children pulled up in a four-door sedan. “Are you looking for your car?” “Uh-huh,” I answered. “How did you know?”

They explained that a grumpy property owner (probably having a Terrible, Awful, No Good, Very Bad Day) decided to TOW all of the cars parked at his CLOSED business near the ferry dock! Many dozens of foot passengers returning from Thanksgiving meals and visits had discovered themselves stranded, their cars towed to a neighboring town where they had been promptly impounded.

This family had just reclaimed their own car, assisted by another stranger who had endured the same fate. They had then driven back to help someone else find their missing car, where they found me wandering around in the rain. They gave me the number of the towing company and waited while I confirmed my car’s whereabouts. Then they insisted on giving me a ride to the towing yard, several miles away, to get my car. (Their own rescuers had done the same for them.) Forty-five minutes and $196 later (but no taxi fees), I was reunited with my car.

As bummed as I was about the car being towed, I was so grateful for my Thanksgiving angels, and so happy to have my very own, warm car back! My rescuers refused to accept a tip, but suggested that I could “pay forward” the help I had received. (Paying it forward is a centuries-old concept of returning a favor “forward” to someone else in need, rather than paying it “back,” and was popularized by a poignant movie of the same name.)

It was very late now and I was still a long drive from home, but knew what I must do next. I drove back to the same parking lot. The next ferry had come and gone, and sure enough, another frustrated family – complete with cold, tired kids – was roaming around in the rain. “Are you looking for your car?” I asked. “I know where it is – and I can take you to it!”

It’s easy to be thankful with our families around the turkey table, a little harder to be thankful when it’s late, you’re tired, you’re cold, it’s dark and raining, and your CAR is MISSING! Initially, I was sure I would remember this experience as an all-time holiday low point, “The Year My Car Got Towed on Thanksgiving.” But what remains in my memory about this Thanksgiving was not the missing car, but the contagious “pay it forward” attitude of strangers. That is what I’ll never forget.

Yes, it was the year my car got towed, but more than that. It was “The Year When Stranded Strangers Helped Each Other Out.”

This Thanksgiving, many families will gather to share a meal, perhaps some prayers and to reflect on the people and things they are grateful for. Some circumstances lend themselves easily to gratitude; other circumstances require us to be a person of gratitude, regardless of the situation. In challenging times, giving thanks requires the ability to see the silver lining in the clouds, spin a bit straw into gold, and trust that there is always a purpose for everything, even pain.

Let’s see how we can embrace a prosperity mindset and “pay forward” the gifts that we’ve received this year. And please continue to remember those recovering from severe storms in the Northeast, where Thanksgiving represents an opportunity to express and appreciate what is truly important.

We at Partners for Prosperity, Inc. are so thankful for the friends, colleagues, clients, and every reader who stops by this blog. We wish you a Happy Thanksgiving, much prosperity, and a heart full of gratitude this holiday and all year long.

Do you have a favorite Thanksgiving memory? Please share – below, around the table with your loved ones, or with anyone you meet.

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