This evening I arrived home from work to an empty house. Those of you who are parents can probably understand the beautiful silence that this brings and the contrasting wondering of why is the house empty? Within five minutes my wife, with the kids, pulled into the drive. It was only five minutes of peace and quiet but it was lovely after an intensive day in work.

While we all gathered in the kitchen, my wife explained she wasn’t feeling well and just wanted to get into bed and forget everyone and everything. I can understand that – I think most people can recognise that feeling. So I suggested she go there and I will sort out something for me and the kids for the next few hours. She initially struggled with this notion of surrender but eventually disappeared.

So, first off was dinner. The kids didn’t want the spaghetti that was prepared for them earlier, they wanted chips. I have to admit I wasn’t in the mood of the salad my wife had made in the hope of summer showing up somewhere soon. So chips was a great idea for me as well. However, I took the lazy route and suggested we head down to the local chipper to get a ‘single of chips’. [this is a bag of chips in case you are wondering – heard Ian Dempsey explain this to his guests the other morning on his show].

The local chipper was quiet, just us and the two staff, with the intrusive sounds of the music channel playing on the tv in the corner. Although, I’m always grateful it’s not some sports or sky news playing in the corner. While we waited for our order to deep fry – this is not our regular diet to any health conscious readers – we stood looking out onto the street. Within a minute, a young man carrying a huge box of soft toys enters the chipper. The box contained a huge selection of various coloured animals of our natural and fictitious worlds. When he set the box down on the floor, my two kids jumped at it thinking Christmas had arrived again.

The guy proceeded to open the door on a vending machine (a claw-attempts-to-grab-a-toy type of machine) in one corner of the tiny waiting area to refill the prizes. I reckon I’m not alone in my loathing for the existence of these machines when visiting various locations in our locality – the shopping centre, the cinema, the chemist, the play zone. You know there’s a high chance of pestering going to happen and there’s a better chance of winning the lotto than getting a toy from the claw machine!

Well tonight our luck was here rather than the lotto. I had given the last of my money to the guy making the chips. There was no money left for this game and I anticipated the words of torment that can follow when the kids discover such ‘treasures’. The words were uttered, “Daddy, can we play the game when the man is finished filling it?”, as they rifled through the large cardboard box, picking out their favourite toys.

Before I could answer the question, the guy turned to my two eager kids and simply said, “Sure, take one now, don’t wait for me to finish!” It was so unbelievable that they didn’t really hear him. They asked me again, and I looked at the guy as he repeated his offer – “pick one out now before I put them into the game”. The smiles on their faces indicated that they heard him this time. They looked through the box again and picked out a prize each. They were thrilled. All three of us thanked the guy. The lads in the chipper added to the festivities and gave each of the kids a lollipop. This was one great trip on a Monday evening.

When we got home they shared the story with mammy and were thrilled to explain they got the toy for nothing, and lollipops, it was the best trip ever! Easy joy, easily shared. As we sat down to eat our chips, my daughter (still cuddling her newly acquired pet dolphin) explained that she wants to bring some of her other cuddly toys to the charity shop tomorrow. “I don’t play with them anymore so I’ll let someone else have them. Just like the guys in the chipper – I want to share”. Paying it forward was a nice lesson to start the week.

Anyone else want to share their ‘pay it forward’ story?

I think we have several chairs like this in our home! 🙂