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Beverly Godfrey column: Not moving forward until he paid it forward

Beverly Godfrey by Bob King /

If you were in a big Ford truck at the London Road McDonald's drive-through about 8:40 a.m. Wednesday, you paid $6.41 for the breakfast of the person behind you. It was me, and I'd like to thank you.

It was gearing up to be an ordinary day, one filled with thoughts about "why is it still so cold" and "what should I make for dinner" but turned into a day where I kept thinking instead: "That man bought my breakfast. That was so nice."

I'll admit, I wasn't thinking such nice thoughts while in line. It seemed like something odd was happening up ahead; I could tell. An extended conversation? A second transaction? What's going on?

"People with complicated orders shouldn't go through the drive-through."

I actually thought that as I sat there, my early-morning demeanor scaling a degree or two away from "Minnesota nice." It would be out of the question to honk or rage at someone, of course, but I'm sure we've all had, let's call them, "ungenerous thoughts" while waiting in line.

I'm a hypocrite to think it, of course. I have no business going anywhere near these thoughts, not while in a drive-through. In the past, I've been that lady in the minivan ordering food for myself and four kids. No cheese here, no sauce there. Even getting Happy Meals straight off the menu requires choosing between three mains, two sides, four drinks and two toys. I calculate 192 possible combinations if there are four kids. Someone can check my math on that.

So while my order that day was simple, sometimes, it's not. I'm just like you, only probably slower.

Imagine my thoughts when the truck ("finally") moved ahead, and the cashier waved off my money.

"He paid for you," he said.

I'm pretty sure I blushed.

I looked ahead, trying to see the man.

I waved through my windshield.

He drove away.

I've heard of "pay it forward" movements like this, encouraging people to be nice to each other. And now I've experienced the effects of it firsthand. My breakfast came with a side order of thinking about other people, remembering patience and feeling grateful. It made me notice that there are real people in those cars in line with me. It made me remember that those people have feelings, just like me, and that they can choose to be nice to each other. Or not.

The free breakfast gave me more to think about than I would have imagined. That man paid for my biscuit and coffee, but he also provided me with some welcome humble pie.

Beverly Godfrey is features editor of the Duluth News Tribune.

Beverly Godfrey

Beverly Godfrey is the Duluth News Tribune features editor. You can reach her at  

(218) 724-4104