Simple Generosity

"Simple generosity" by Leanne Willen (

Image credit: By Joshua Clay (2015),, CC0/PD

A few months ago, my two youngest boys and I ended up in the Disney Store one morning. The boys oohed over all the magical things in there. I smiled at all the figures and new merchandise I hadn’t seen before. I ran my fingers across the costumes.

The boys and I pored over all the adorable stuffed animals, picked out our favorites, and pointed out the ones we didn’t have. I picked up a Mickey Mouse shirt and promptly put it back. It’s not that we couldn’t afford the shirt or the toys, but none of it seemed like a real necessity. I shrugged, grabbed the boys’ hands, and headed toward the front to leave.

Just before we walked out of the store, a man approached us. He had something in his hand that he was trying to give me. I was so taken aback by him that I didn’t fully hear what he was saying at first. I finally realized he was trying to give me a gift card to the store.

“I’ve looked through this store at least five times. My kids are much older, and I just can’t find anything they would want in here. Take this gift card and buy your kids something on me.”

I stared at him in disbelief. He pushed the card in my hand and hurried out the door before I could protest. Hot tears welled up in my eyes. This was such a generous and unexpected gift from a complete stranger.

I gathered my composure and walked back to the middle of the store. I let the boys each pick something small and we proceeded to the check out. After paying, the cashier asked if I wanted the remainder left on the gift card or if I wanted cash back. I asked for the cash and she handed me $12.

As we were on our way out of the mall, I noticed a sign hanging on the door of another store: “Help us reach our goal for the day! Stop in and donate to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital!”

Immediately, I knew what we had to do. We took the change from the gift card and placed it in the donation bucket. It wasn’t our money anyway. It felt so good to pass some generosity along, I practically floated out of the mall that day.

A few weeks later, I sat in the Panera drive-thru. The kids and I were headed to a playdate at the zoo and had a little extra time. I decided to swing through Panera for a bagel for us to split and an iced tea for me. With my window rolled down, I mindlessly listened to the woman behind me place her order.

I don’t know why, but I suddenly got an urge to pay for her meal.

My first thought was, “That’s crazy.”

Followed shortly by, “People always say, ‘Pay for the person behind you in the drive-thru,’ but I’ve never heard of anyone actually doing it!”

And finally, “No one has ever paid for my meal at a drive-thru!”

But, I quickly remembered the man at the Disney store and felt an even stronger tug to pay for this lady’s bagel and coffee.

The amount was insignificant and I have no way of knowing who that woman was. I’d like to think my small gesture brightened her day, but I’ll never know for sure. That’s not the point, really. This small act of generosity brightened my day and made me a better person.

I was able to pass on kindness to someone else. It felt wonderful and it was truly good for my soul.

Our world is scary, cruel, and isolating at times, but we can restore humanity one generous act at a time. I hope that when you feel that “urge” to help someone, give something to someone, or show kindness to someone (whether you know the person or not), that you follow through with it.

Not only will you bring someone else a bit of joy, you’ll find great joy in doing it, too. And if you are ever on the receiving end, be sure to pass the kindness onward.

Copyright 2019 Leanne Willen


About Author

Leanne Willen is a Catholic mother of four young children, a wife, a writer and a preschool teacher. She writes about faith, family, and finding joy. Her blog, Life Happens When, encourages others (and herself) to embrace the moment and enjoy the journey of life.

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