“Pass it on,” she says as she hands a 10-dollar bill to me.
My response is, “I’m not going to take your money.”
She insists and I leave the McDonald’s lot where the cashier at the window did not have a firm hold on my money and it whipped through the March wind and was gone.
The cashier had said, “You can have your meal free,” and I thought, “No, it’s costing me 10 bucks for a $5.89 meal.” When I picked up my food at the next window, the server had said, “I can’t refund your money,” as she handed me a coupon for a free drink or coffee or a small fry.
As I drove home, I thought of another time when I lost money. I was working for Kroger and was a junior at the University of Toledo. I had a 20-dollar bill in the pocket of my uniform, and after I crossed the street from the bus stop, I stuck my hand in my pocket. The money was gone.
There was no gracious, kind soul coming forward and offering to replace it. That was the money I planned to use the next week to ride the bus to the university, to work my shift at Kroger on the East Side of Toledo and then to ride the bus back to my parents’ apartment on Cherry Street.
I was in a jam. My dad didn’t have 20 extra bucks. I was saving dollars for tuition for spring semester and money was more- than-tight at our house. There were three teens, and all of us were in college, all paying our own way. My dad must , however, have been able to supply the bus fare I needed.
After the kind stranger at McDonald’s had told me to “Pass It on,” I started driving home. Suddenly, I was a little girl again, standing in the driveway of my grandmother’s house with my siblings to say good-bye to the Texas folks who had been visiting my grandmother on their way back from Chicago. At the last minute my Uncle Dick got out of their car and pressed coins in our hands. It was no more than a quarter for each of us, but although my tears were flowing with their departure, I was already planning how to spend that quarter. A quarter went a long way back in the day when I was a child and dinosaurs still roamed the earth.
In this column today, I want to report that all four of my parents’ children earned graduate degrees and had successful careers that allowed them to pass it on virtually every day of their lives. I’m the only one with a doctorate, and I can speak to the influence that has had in my life. Doors flew open after I earned the degree, and all sorts of people were pushing me through them: my aunt, Muriel Adams; Dr. Joseph LaLumia, academic dean at Urbana University; Dr. Emily Taylor, director of the Office of Women in Higher Education at the American Council on Education; and “Pete” Maddox,trustee at Rancho Santiago College District.
I have had a rich life. I am blessed. I am also the only one of my siblings (one sister died in 2013) still working, and I can’t imagine a life without students, projects, writing for publication, and volunteer work with veterans.
My latest special project stirs my heart, soul, and mind as I work with three of my college students, all age 18, collaborating to produce a program on April 1 entitled “Women’s Untold Stories.”
Yes, we have stories to tell and because I am supported by my editors at the helm of the Civitas Media Kentucky and Ohio newspapers for which I write, I am privileged to share mine.
Education changes lives, and we must never forget that as we work to overcome obstacles such as earning money to pay tuition and other college expenses , paying off student debt, and entering careers where we learn that “Wow, no one ever told me that the career for which I prepared has so many challenges. But, yes, I can meet those challenges. I will do it, and always I will pass it one, pay it forward. Make a positive difference.”
Vivian Blevins is a consultant for the Training Solutions Group Inc. who teaches courses in writing and literature for major telecom company employees. Reach her at (937) 778-3815 or [email protected]