school lunch, pasta, kid eating lunchUpdate: Here is the link to the WTHR story that ran last night at 11pm. Paying it forward is something I learned at a very young age. My parents raised me in a very strong Christian home, with a belief that can be described in this simple phrase: Do the right thing because it’s the right thing to do. Seems pretty easy doesn’t it? But the simple notion of paying it forward often gets lost. Even the most kind-hearted people are too busy and overwhelmed in their own day to day lives.

I have a routine when I go to Starbucks. I get a venti hot chocolate and an undertow. I don’t like coffee, and the first time I ever really had it at the downtown Starbucks, I spit it out. The barista said she had something for me, and that began my love affair with the undertow. 2 shots of expresso, 2% milk, and I always tell them to “surprise me” with the syrup. $6.43, I know the total with tax of my order by heart.

When I get to the drive-thru window, if there is a car behind me, as I hand him/her my card I always say, “And I’ll pay for theirs too.”

I’m not the first person to ever do this in the drive-thru line at Starbucks. It also isn’t lost on me that people who can afford Starbucks, buying Starbucks for other people who can afford Starbucks, isn’t exactly the most “pay it forward” thing you can do. Nevertheless, it’s a good gesture. Sometimes just putting some good into the world goes a long way.

Pay it forward, Starbucks, good deed

Amidst the comments from my post about my Starbucks routine, an off-shoot conversation began between me and an old high school friend, Cheyane Bradley. She probably would have described me as a somewhat arrogant ‘cool kid’ back then, but we were still friends. A few minutes into our conversation about paying it forward, she gave me the idea that started us down this journey.

Pay it forward, good deed, school lunch

Cheyane had paid off 12 accounts at her daughters school, anonymously, so that kids could eat what they regular kids were eating…or just flat out feel comfortable eating at all. The idea that kids were getting something “different” to eat, or that they simply weren’t eating because they were embarrassed, put a feeling in the pit of my stomach that wasn’t going away.

(I don’t understand all of the specifics for how meals are charged in schools, delinquent accounts, and all of the rules — and that isn’t the reason I did what I did…and am going to do what I’m going to do. So let’s get back to the story.)

This past Friday I attended a field trip with Kameron’s kindergarten class, and when we got back to the school, Cheyane’s idea hit me. I walked into the cafeteria and here is what happened next:
Me: “I’m here to pay off some delinquent accounts.”
Lunch lady: “Sure, sure. What’s your kid’s name?”
Me: “I’m sorry, I wasn’t clear. I’m just going to pay off random kids accounts, not my kids.”
Lunch lady: “You mean, you don’t have any kids in this school?”
Me: “No, I do, but their accounts aren’t delinquent. I’ve got $100 cash and I want you to just pay off some accounts for kids who are delinquent.”
Lunch lady: (gasps, and tears immediately start flowing) Lord Jesus, oh my God, you are too kind. I just had a kid in here crying because his account was delinquent.”

Five minutes later, 22 kids now had zero balance due. Have you heard enough, do you want to help out already? (I don’t blame you). Simply click donate.

Facebook, pay off delinquent accounts, Pay it forward

But I wasn’t done.

At this point, the assistant principal had made her way into the cafeteria, and she was immediately puzzled by three crying cafeteria ladies, and  a parent (who she knows by name) with tears in his eyes too.

Me: “While I’m at it, what’s the total balance due for delinquent kids?”
Lunch lady: “You mean all of my accounts?”
Me: “Yep. I’m going to pay off the entire balance. I have a way of motivating my friends, so might as well use it for good.”
Lunch lady: (more shock) “Okay, here is the total amount (points to the screen).

$1,261.98 became my motivation. Right then and there, I told the assistant principal that I was going to lean on my friends, raise the $1,261.98, and march back into the school with the Indianapolis Star in tow and make it rain in the cafeteria — “Let the children eat!”

Godzilla, food, action toysAnd that brings us full-circle to where we are today. I want to raise the $1,261.98, so that I can march in cash, plop it down on the register, and say, “Lakeside Elementary is the first public school in the country to have a zero balance for kids lunches.” I don’t care if that is accurate. I don’t care why the parents haven’t paid the accounts. I have zero interest in debating why or how a parent could let their kids account go negative. It isn’t my place to judge. I don’t know another parent’s story, and I feel comfortable saying that more often than not there are reasons and if those who do judge learned the reasons that they’d feel like complete jerks.

The point is much much bigger: It’s about the kids. I don’t want any kid to feel different in the cafeteria because they are on reduced lunch, free lunch, different than everyone else lunch…etc. I don’t want there to be a kid who doesn’t eat because he or she is too embarrassed because of what delinquent account kids eat.

So Cheyane motivated a monster, and I’m dead-set on fulfilling my goal and to pay it forward.

I have a unique ability to motivate others into action. So I hope this story motivates you to help out. Are there loads of other worthy causes in your feed right now? Sure. Are there loads of other programs that the money could be better used for? Maybe. The world doesn’t become a better place overnight. This was something that touched me, and I got passionate about doing something for the kids of Lakeside Elementary. Pay it forward. A step in the right direction is a step worth taking.

So far I’ve raised $717.41 of the$1,261.98!. All of that came in on that same day, Friday, last week. I’ve had somewhere between another $200-$400 that people have said they were going to donate, as well as others who have mentioned wanting to help. My PayPal e-mail is Whether it’s $1 or $100, any little bit helps. You can also click this button:

photo credit: US Department of Education via photopin cc
photo credit: Ѕolo via photopin cc