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Tales from the Chief: Gifts that can keep on giving

McGaughey mug

A couple of months back, I was having a pretty bad day.

As I remember, I had gotten a call regarding my mom that was bringing me some unneeded stress, and to make matters worse I had to get some repair work done on my car. I brought the car in the noon hour, and immediately walked down the street to treat myself to lunch at one of my favorite local restaurants. I don't eat lunch out terribly often — a majority of my frivolous spending goes toward coffee — and I knew I probably shouldn't be accumulating an extra expense with an unknown automotive cost on the horizon, but a tasty meal was what I needed (emotional eating, anyone?).

I must have been wearing a sour mood on my face as I ate. I was at this point in one of the kind of moods in which I find almost anything irritating, often for no good reason at all. I got done with my lunch, and went off (stalked off?) to use the rest room before the check had arrived. When I got out and began walking toward my table, the waitress caught me and delivered me some surprising news. My lunch had been paid for.

Of course, I'd heard of these sorts of "pay it forward" things, and it was gratifying to be on the receiving end of this type of unexpected reward. At the same time, I felt twinges of guilt. I'll admit the waitress told me who bought my meal, and that I know the person who did me this favor. Wow, I thought — did I look so unhappy and miserable that this acquaintance felt the need to take pity on me? I soon resolved to get over this feeling. The bigger point was this: someone did something nice for me, and I should be thankful and "pay it forward" to someone else who I believed would reap such a benefit.

Now, fast forward to a few weeks later. I was scrolling through my Facebook feed — and trying to not get riled up over some of the more political items shared — when I came upon a nice post from The Plaid Moose, a coffee shop in Slayton. "On Christmas Eve someone left close to a hundred dollars as a gift to pay for others' drinks throughout the day. We were so blessed to be a part of that experience," the message (edited slightly) read. The post also included photos of a few happy folks who enjoyed a nice holiday surprise thanks to someone else's generosity. How could this random act of kindness not offer a little bit of inspiration?

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And, speaking of inspiration, I couldn't help but be moved by the recent giving of far more than just one individual.

Anyone reading this column is probably aware on at least some level of the trip to Atlanta, Georgia by the "Spirit of Worthington" Trojan Marching Band. It was a once-of-lifetime experience for so many (including my daughter), and it wouldn't have been possible without the support of so many. The band's Facebook page has shared the names of multiple organizations, businesses, organizations and individuals who offered financial support and thereby reduced expenses for students' families. The Worthington High School band program is outstanding — and it's equally outstanding that our community realizes it and supports these endeavors. Nobody had to make their donations, but because they did because they felt it was the right thing to do.

Now, as we continue through the first full week of a brand new year, it seems appropriate to think about what can provide a little extra inspiration in others. Maybe someone you know looks like they're having a bad day, and can be made to feel just a wee bit better by doing them a small favor. Maybe you can do something to make a bunch of people you don't know feel good. Maybe you can give back to your community.

Here's to a brand new year — a year where small gifts can help make big differences..

Ryan McGaughey arrived in Worthington in April 2001 as sports editor of The Daily Globe, and first joined Forum Communications Co. upon his hiring as a sports reporter at The Dickinson (North Dakota) Press in November 1998. McGaughey became news editor in Worthington in November 2002 and editor in August 2006.
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