Last weekend my friends and I were on our way up to Show Low for a wedding. My friend wanted a coffee from Starbucks so we stopped there for her to get something along the way. She ordered and when the lady gave us her coffee at the drive-thru window she went to pay and the lady said, “There is no charge for the coffee today. The lady in front of you that just left paid for the next four customers.” My friend was of course ecstatic, but it got me really thinking about the true affect “paying it forward” can really have on other people that goes way beyond just coffee.

I am sure everyone has heard of the “Pay It Forward” challenges that Oprah has been getting people to do and our Starbucks experience may have been a part of that. Although it may have seemed like it was just about getting a coffee that day, it was so much more than that. The lady in front of us had kids in her car. Yes, it could have been a project given to the kids by their school and so the parent could have just been fulfilling what the project called for. Or, maybe the parent wanted to be an example for her kids to show them about doing nice things for others and not getting any credit for it. She could have also been a struggling single parent and despite all of the struggles that she may have been going through still wanted to do something nice for someone else. The possibilities are endless because we will never know what her reasons were for doing what she did because she drove off and obviously did not want any credit for it. She truly did a good deed.

People nowadays don’t realize the effects that their actions can have on other people. They don’t realize how much holding a door open for someone else can truly really mean to that person. Or when someone is struggling, and a friend comes along and pays a bill for them to try and help them out. Just the fact that the friend took some weight off of their shoulders makes them able to see the light at the end of the tunnel. Situations occur like this every single day. We are all witnesses to it. At some point or another in our life we were struggling with something as well – whether it was finances, relationships, family issues, health, you name it, we have all experienced some sort of struggle in our lives. And eventually we all somehow made it through our time of struggle. What we should remember from those experiences is the fact that we made it through to the other side and we are now stronger for going through what we went through. We also need to remember the people who were there for us who were trying to help us find our way and get through the situation. Their good deeds should make us realize that we are obligated and should feel willingly to be obligated to someone else who needs our help just like how we needed help at the time.

Just think about it for a second. Think about how far the art of truly “paying it forward” can go. All the lady did was buy my friend a coffee. When we got back from our trip, my friend and her husband saw a broken down vehicle pulled off to the side of the road and noticed that there were people in it. They pulled off to the side to see if the broken down vehicle needed help, and discovered that there was a mother and her two kids in the car. The mother said her car broke down and she was completely broke and had no money to fix it or get it towed. It was raining and when they asked where she was headed she told my friends that her husband was being abusive so she took her two kids in the car, left him, and was trying to head out to a family member’s house to get her kids out of the negative situation. In light of my friend receiving her free coffee, they decided to pay it forward and had the lady’s car towed to another friend’s garage who could fix her car for free. My friends also gave the mother some cash and gave them all a ride to get the mother and kids out of the rain and off the side of the road. The mother was so thankful and was in a situation where she obviously needed some help. Although she and my friends did not know each other, they realized that it was just an unwritten common sense rule that if someone is struggling, you do whatever you can to try and help them out. And that is exactly what they did.

The lady from Starbucks may have just bought my friend a coffee but the affect it had on my friend led to my friend helping a total stranger in dire need of help at the time. And I know that once that mother from the side of the road gets back on her feet again, she will return the favor that my friends did for her for someone else who may need help one day.

If you think that this story is pretty powerful and inspiring, think of the little things you could do each day that could start a “Pay it Forward” reaction. Your one good deed could spread to thousands of people if you stop and really think about it. Don’t be afraid to do a good deed for someone else because you think you won’t be able to make a difference. You will make a difference, you just might not be there to see the results of what you started.


Ahwatukee Foothills resident Michelle “Mikey” Arana is a 2003 graduate of Mountain Pointe High School. She offers free peer advice, however, Mikey is not licensed or trained, just a fellow friend to the community. All inquiries made to Mikey will remain anonymous unless legal issues occur. She can be reached at or

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