Have you ever gone through the Starbuck drive-thru and had the person in front of you pay for your drink? Don’t you just love when that happens? It’s such a surprise and then creates a ripple effect, continuing on with the next car, changing the day’s trajectory, and giving everyone in that line an opportunity to do something nice for someone else. All because of one person’s actions.
Whenever that happens to me, I’m reminded of my Grandpa Reynolds. Starbucks wasn’t around when he was, but his actions created that same ripple effect. In fact, he was a pay-it-forward legend among those who knew him, striving to make the world a little kinder.
If you were to look at his vital statistics you might think hmmm, there’s nothing legendary about him. Born Cyril Holcombe Reynolds in 1914, married to the Winifred King, five children, active church member, worked in a hosiery factory, then as an insurance salesman and then later, with Winnie, opened a slipcover business. Died due to complications of Alzheimers in 1996. 82 years on this earth.
What you don’t see on paper, however, is the lasting impact he had on those around him.
For example every day he did at least one good deed, whether it be something small like holding a door or picking up a piece of trash, or something bigger like driving someone to a doctor’s appointment or helping a neighbor with a project. Those good deeds had an effect, not just on the recipient but also on the observer. Some of my favorite days as a child were those spent with my grandpa running an errand or two and watching as he opened a door for someone and then announcing to me “Well I did my good deed for the day!” (Though I suspect that he never stopped with just one). That example has stayed so fresh in my mind, that even today I try to do at least one good deed every day. He treated those around him with such love and care. He couldn’t do much to affect the larger world, but he sure worked hard to take care of those in his own backyard. And I like to think that those small deeds eventually reached out into the larger world.
He gave joyfully and he also lived joyfully. You couldn’t help but smile when he was around. His contagious laugh could turn the grumpiest person into a giggling mess. We kids used to love sitting with him as he watched one of his favorite TV shows, HeeHaw. We certainly didn’t get the jokes, but when he started laughing, we all started laughing. Another great memory is car rides with him. He used to love to take us up the mountain in his giant station wagon, where he accelerated around curves and over hills in the road, his laugh accompanying every curve, every hill. Something so small, but he found such delight in that small activity, along with such things as playing harmonica accompanied by Pepe his dog, long walks after dinner, working in his garden (and then giving us a tour every time we visited), or jiggling our chins as we tried to stammer out our names. All of these simple pleasures he delighted in. Life was certainly not easy at times; he had some pretty difficult challenges in his lifetime, but he lived with joy, seeking out those things that made him happy and paying that happiness forward.
Grandpa has been gone now for 27 years, a lifetime. But the ripple effect of his joyful life continues on with his children, his grandchildren – and beyond.
Sometimes when I’m feeling a bit overwhelmed by the big problems of our world, I think about my grandpa – and then I go to Starbucks and start the pay-it-forward line. It’s such a small action, I know, but it’s a start and maybe it will ripple. And it reminds me that there is a lot of good out there, a lot of people trying to make the world a little better, a little kinder, a little more joyful. One good deed at a time.
Hello! My name is Pam Reynolds Baker and I am a mom/wife /writer and lavender farmer located in Dundee, Oregon.