Paying It Forward

On our way home from camping in southern Oregon last summer, we decided to explore off the beaten path and took a narrow winding road through the canyons and mountains in the high desert of the northeastern part of that state. Rounding a corner, we came to the intersection of two narrow state highways, and propped there was a large piece of plywood with big hand painted red letters.The sign read “CAFE” and an arrow pointed to the left, toward a smattering of houses, a ramshackle post office, and a church, plus a small cinder block building, advertised as the cafe. A sign on the door warned that credit cards were not accepted and we ventured inside to ask if a check might be okay. The answer was no. A cowboyish young man was sitting at the counter and as he stood to leave, he laid money on the counter. “I’ve got their meal,” he said, before nodding to us and walking out the door. Turns out he is the person who shares the local post office route with his brother, delivering mail to this very rural area and driving the twisty two lane roads to Portland and back, six days a week. We were uncomfortable accepting the gift at first, but the cafe’s owner assured us it was the right thing to do — and thanks to this man’s generosity, we enjoyed burgers, fries, and a piece of homemade triple berry pie for dessert. When we got home, I wondered about other people who might end up in a similar situation and I mailed the restaurant’s proprietor a twenty dollar bill, asking her to please extend the same courtesy to someone else. Paying it forward, two burgers at a time.

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