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English: A photo of a cup of coffee. Esperanto...

I’ve been to Bluffton, SC and it’s nice. Small town feel, nice people. Really nice people as it turns out. A recent issue of Good Magazine highlighted a “pay it forward” story from there.

It all started two years ago at Corner Perk, a small, locally owned coffee shop, when a customer…left $100 extra…to pay for everyone who ordered after her until the money ran out…The woman has returned to leave other large donations every two to three months.

It took a while, but word has started to spread around the tiny coastal town, home to about 12,000 people. Now, more and more customers have been leaving money to pay for others’ food and drink. Cooke says some people don’t even buy anything when they come in; they just stop to donate and head right back out.

Seems like it might be good for business at the coffee shop, too. I admit I might stop in every now and then just to see if I hit it lucky. The story does have me thinking, though, about my tendency to over think (ironic, I know) even with things like charity. I sometimes feel the need to research charitable organizations, compare their missions, figure out exactly how donations are spent. Embarrassingly, I end up stifling my own giving in the process.

Once when I was much younger I bought a (very) used car. One of my first. I pulled in to the gas station and realized I didn’t know which side of the car the gas tank was on. I probably repositioned the car or did something to make it obvious this was a recent purchase. Either that or it was the rusty car combined with my youth that gave someone an idea. I remember being completely shocked when the clerk said my gas had been paid anonymously. I was incredulous. I asked him to repeat what he said and questioned who did it. “They’re already gone,” he said. It’s been more than 20 years since that happened and I still remember it. I wonder how many “planned” donations make that kind of impact.

Paying for a cup of coffee, a first tank of gas, or any number of things may seem like small gestures. But they could change someone’s day. Or even more.