900 Customers Pay It Forward at a Minnesota Drive-Thru

One act of kindness can set off a positive chain reaction.

Jan 3, 2021
900 Customers Pay It Forward at a Minnesota Drive-Thru | One act of kindness can set off a positive chain reaction.

Looking to light up someone’s life? Pay it forward with an act of kindness to a stranger. Easy to do, this creates goodwill and can even start at the neighborhood drive-thru. People are now bringing tears of joy and positivity to others by simply paying for a stranger’s meal.

The concept of paying it forward, doing an act of kindness to a stranger who then passes it on to another, is not new, it’s been around since ancient times.However, the 20th century has seen literature, movies, and organizations dedicated to this inspiring idea. In 1999, author Catherine Ryan Hyde published a book entitled “Pay it Forward.” She then started a non-profit called Pay it Forward and in 2000, her popular novel was turned into a heart-warming movie by the same name.

It was a regular December night at the Dairy Queen in Brainerd, Minnesota. One man drove up to the cashier and asked if he could pay for his meal as well as the meal for the car behind him, according to CNN. The cashier then asked the next driver in line if she would like to continue the kind act. 

Everyone in the drive-thru on that Thursday night agreed, and the last driver who ordered before closing left $10 for the cashier to continue paying it forward on Friday and Saturday morning.

Dairy Queen manager Tina Jensen posted this event on Facebook, creating such pride and generosity, people drove to Dairy Queen just to be a part of the giving. The kindness lasted all Friday and continued on through Saturday.

All tallied, over 900 cars were included, with people spending close to $10,000 just to make others happy. Jensen explained to CNN that in these times, there are very limited ways for people to come together and show appreciation. Yet lining up in a car for a meal and paying for the stranger behind offers a great opportunity to give.

“There's all different types of ways to help people. I think this touched a lot of people that we didn't even know it touched, deeper than we know. And you don't know what's going on in a person's life,” Jensen told CNN.

The cashiers were emotional to be a part of this and many of the customers were in tears. The city of Brainerd was uplifted, with residents proudly commenting on the Dairy Queen Facebook page.

One local wrote, “It was a bell rung loudly for all to hear. That with selfless acts of kindness and with love towards another human being that all things are possible. I am in awe and proud of those selfless ones. Thank you to those 900 cars.”

Similar acts of generosity have also caught on in other countries. Across the Atlantic in Stockton-on-Tees, England, a 6-year-old boy told his mom he wanted to do something kind, according to the BBC.

While he was in line to order breakfast at the McDonald’s drive-thru, Blake Durham decided to buy the meal for the person behind him. He did so and everyone in line followed, paying the kindness forward. His mom, Amy Durham, told the BBC, “I could see the man behind and the smile on his face and I said, ‘look how happy you've made that man.’ He was beaming.”

These beautiful acts are flourishing these days, with a social media hashtag #payitforward devoted to recording these acts. There are also many Facebook groups focused solely on performing kind acts. Off to pick up lunch? Make this day special by paying the tab for a stranger. The goodness could be echoed, touching many far and wide. 

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Nicole is an editor, blogger and author who has recently left her urban life in order to be more connected with nature. In her spare time, she’s outdoors hiking in the forest, mountain biking or tending to her new permaculture garden.