Ahh, delicious pho… Pronounced “fuh”, pho is a hearty, hot noodle-y goodness that is almost guaranteed to cure what ails you. Today, while fighting the sinus infection that 59% of Richmonders currently have, I tried it out to see if it, indeed, would wield its healing powers.

After leaving the restaurant, I’m honestly not sure that my sinuses are feeling better, but I am absolutely positive that my heart is full.

You may have heard a sweet, touching story on the De-liiii-laaah radio show about how some older gentleman pays for the dinner of a seemingly single mom, or maybe the Starbucks pay-it-forward chain where 458 people paid for the next persons’ deliciously overpriced coffee drink. (No, really… that happened!)

I have to say that although I frequently pay for a friend’s lunch or coffee, and am a complete sucker for a GoFundMe fundraiser, I have never been just spontaneously felt the gut-punching realization that I needed to pay for someone who came behind me in a line. Until today… I was sitting there, just eating my pho, when a mother and her son walked by me on the way to the restroom. The little boy seemed to be staring at me as he walked past, and the mother also smiled shyly. There was nothing remarkable about them, truly. I finished my food, headed to the counter, and paid, inwardly marveling to myself about leaving a restaurant with a bill under $10, and noticed the family rose from their table to come pay behind me.

THAT is when it hit me - that gut-punch, that instant knowledge of what I must do, that overwhelming feeling that actually made my hands shake a bit. “I want to pay for their food too,” I told the owner, handing him back my own signed receipt. “You mean for their child?” he asked. “No,” I told him, “all of them”. He looked at me quizzically. “Why?? You know them?” “No, I just want to do something nice.” His eyes widened, and he ran my credit card for the second time, this time refusing to give me back the slip to write in a tip. He waved his hand at me and said “No more tip.” I thanked him, and turned around to walk out, trying to sneak out quickly, but the family was walking up to the counter, and the owner loudly announced, “she pay for your food!” The father’s eyes widened, and he explained to his wife in Spanish what had just happened. Funny – although I speak Spanish, I had not guessed that they were Hispanic, based on the appearance of the mother and boy I had seen pass me. “Why?” the father asked me - “you don’t have to do that!” I replied in Spanish – “I know I don’t, but sometimes it’s fun to do something nice for someone. God bless you.” I walked out with all three staring at me, and the owner standing there with a big smile on his face.

I got into my car and started it, and as I pulled out, I saw the family walk out and all crowd into an older, single-cab truck.

Now, I don’t think that someone paying for their $40 lunch changed their life. I don’t know if any of the scenarios that filled my head afterward were even close to being true. What I do know is that blessing this little family, whose father’s white clothes were covered in paint, and from all outward appearances don’t have much, changed MY mindset. I felt good – miserable still, from the sinus infection, if I must be honest, but REALLY GOOD about something that I had just done.

Paying it forward, if you’ve never felt the urge to do so, isn’t about doing something for recognition, or about trying to save the day, or even, as I realized, about just blessing another person. It’s about reminding others – and yourself – that the world is not all bad. There are good things, and good people, and “angels in disguise” everywhere. Don’t look for the light in this world. BE the light. It feels good!