I’m sure you have heard of the phrase “pay it forward.” It is a modern version of the Golden Rule, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” Some others just call this the “ethic of reciprocity.” Any way you say it, it translates into being kind to others.
And, as luck would have it, kindness is one of the key ingredients of an outlier. I am always on the lookout for outliers in my daily life and in the news. Just recently, I came across an article about someone in Michigan who I believe to be a true outlier.
Dan Dewey of Oakland County, Michigan has been “paying it forward” since January 2007. According to an article by Mlive.com, Dewey’s father began chemotherapy treatment for his prostate cancer at Pontiac’s St. Joseph’s Mercy Hospital in 2006.
Half a mile down the road from the hospital was a Starbucks, Dewey shared with the Mlive.com reporter.
“I’ll never forget, I stood up, and here’s all these other people hooked to needles,” Dewey said. “So I go, ‘Anybody want anything else? I’m going for coffee. I’ve got his wallet…’ That was the attitude that took off, you know, here’s this goofball willing to buy a total stranger a coffee.”
According to Mlive.com’s article, Dewey continued this ritual through two 8-week sessions of chemotherapy for his father. And the chemotherapy worked; his father had beaten cancer. Yet, Dewey could not forget the wonderful patients he had been buying coffee for, so he continued the tradition.
Dewey kept “paying it forward” in the form of coffee for seven years following his father’s treatment, delivering about $200 worth of coffee every week to St. Joseph’s Cancer Center, the Rose Cancer Center and CARE House of Oakland County.
In 2011, the media and Starbuck’s recognized Dewey’s kindness, and although he was shy of the attention at first, he realized his story might motivate others to “pay it forward.”
Because of the media attention and the efforts of some of the Starbuck’s employees, people began to donate to Dewey’s cause, raising several thousand dollars. These donations have allowed him to continue his tradition.
“It’s wonderful,” Christine Jarosz, a breast cancer patient from Sylvan Lake, said to Mlive.com. “It’s not wonderful being here, but just this bit of brightness just helps all of us and we’re grateful.”
It is truly incredible how one small act of kindness can build and grow into a movement and spark more kindness.
“The smile is all I need to show up,” Dewey said to Mlive.com. “See, right there. That’s it. If I can count on that, forget the rest.”
Gear up, outliers!
– John Shufeldt
Photo courtesy of Piutus