What are the rules of paying it forward?

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Last Wednesday, I bolted into line at Peet’s Coffee in the Ferry Building in SF for my last day of retail work. It was 850 and I needed to be at work at 9. As I wait for the barista to take my order, I feel a tap on my shoulder.

“You look like your in a hurry and I want to do something nice to start off my day”

So I got my jasmine green tea and off I went to work.

Here is my question. What are the rules for paying it forward? I know that, as someone did something nice for me, I should probably do something nice for someone else in hopes that they would do something nice for someone else, etc. But I haven’t really had that opportunity. I suppose maybe staying an extra 4 hours at work was maybe paying it forward? But I also got something out of that in the form of a bigger paycheck. I did take 20 minutes out of my day to locate a receipt from 3 months ago for someone who bought a $400 coffee machine who needed a copy to get his free coffee.

But in the end, he gave me a $5 Starbucks gift card he had in his pocket. Plus it was my job to do that for customers – to do anything possible to get what they needed.

So I don’t think either of those things count. Would anything nice I do for someone from here going forward actually count as paying forward this man’s nice actions? or would I just be starting a whole new chain of events? Not that there was a chain before, it was maybe just a few links and then I dropped the ball on that one.

Here is another question: Does my inability to act until now effect this nice man’s good karma? Does the opportunity for an increase in good karma decrease steadily? Exponentially? for every hour or day that I don’t pay forward my free tea?

I’m really just curious. I do plan on going out of my way to do something nice for someone. When the moment is right, I’ll know, and it will happen. I hope this nice man has more than a few great days ahead of him.

These are the things I think about when I have nothing to do until I start my new job (GASP! A NEW JOB!) Don’t worry, I’ll get to that.

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