Pay It Forward: A True Christmas Story

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pay it forward Last night, a man wrote to a radio show to recall one Christmas – decades ago – when a stranger’s car broke down outside his home.

The stranger’s car had a flat tire. It was an rickety old car, without a spare tire in the back. A family of three –- a husband, wife and their child — were stranded on Christmas.

The man greeted the stranded family. He invited them inside his home, where his wife fixed them tea. Then he drove the father to a 24-hour shop to look for a new tire.

The stranded father protested that he couldn’t afford a new tire. So the man asked the shopkeeper if he had any good-quality used ones.

The shopkeeper did, and offered it for $25. The man bought it as a Christmas gift for the stranded family.

“How can I repay you?” the stranded father asked.

“Pay it forward,” the man replied.


That was decades ago. Who knows where the family is now? Who knows what they’ve done for others? That will always be a mystery.

But one thing is certain: The helpful man recalls that evening with fondness and clarity. Even today, decades later, he receives sustained joy from the memory of helping the stranded family.

In other words, the stranded family paid it forward — unexpectedly — by revealing the joy of giving.


Happy Holidays from Afford Anything.

Thanks to Alex Proimo for today’s photo.

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13 Responses to “Pay It Forward: A True Christmas Story”

  1. Invest It Wisely
    23. Dec, 2011 at 2:39 pm #

    That was a kind gesture on their part! I had no idea that there were 24-hour shops for that.

      24. Dec, 2011 at 3:11 pm #

      @Invest — I imagine it was the type of shop that you’d call if you blew a tire while you’re driving on the highway at 2 a.m. — a junkyard/tow shop type of place. I had to go to one midway through a long road trip when my car broke down late, late on a Sunday night just outside of Auburn, Alabama.

  2. femmefrugality
    23. Dec, 2011 at 7:13 pm #

    That’s really sweet. Been in similar situations before while traveling, and the kindness of strangers can truly be amazing. Happy holidays.

  3. jim syyap
    24. Dec, 2011 at 12:44 am #

    I am curious, has anyone given you a big “pay it forward” gift?

      24. Dec, 2011 at 3:14 pm #

      @Jim — That story reminded me of a time when my friend Kim and I were riding our bicycles across Spain, from Madrid to Malaga. Kim blew a flat tire and was riding on her spare, and later that same day, her spare tire popped. We were outside of someone’s house. The family took us in, fed us dinner, let us sleep in their guest room, and drove us to a bicycle shop the next day.

    • IMO
      02. Feb, 2014 at 9:29 pm #

      I consider ALL gifts I receive as Pay It Forward gifts.

  4. World of Finance
    24. Dec, 2011 at 1:45 pm #

    That’s a nice story. I love hearing stories where people reach out and help others, a selfless act of kindness :) Merry Christmas Paula!

  5. Angel Collins
    27. Dec, 2011 at 4:39 am #

    That’s indeed a very gracious act. Yeah, sometimes, we just need to be selfless and think of others who are in need and leave no hesitation in helping them out. It’s always a great feeling to remember times that you’ve actually done something for others without thinking of what to get in return. Thanks for sharing. :)

  6. Christa
    04. Jan, 2012 at 2:31 pm #

    What a great story! I had a stranger help me recently, and I’m sure to pay it forward when the opportunity arises.

      04. Jan, 2012 at 3:49 pm #

      @Christa — I’m glad you got whatever help you needed! It’s always nice to be reminded of the kindness of strangers.

  7. Shaun @ Money Cactus
    06. Jan, 2012 at 9:33 am #

    Great story, I think that we should all do more of it, not just at Christmas. I’ve had perfect strangers do me favours for no reason and have done the same for others in return, it really does make you feel good to know that you were able to help.

  8. Harri @ TotallyMoney
    06. Jan, 2012 at 11:39 am #

    You’ve brought back memories of that beautiful film starring Kevin Spacey (aptly titled ‘Pay it Forward’). Thoroughly recommend for a feel good uplift!


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