Serendipity & the Kindness of Strangers.

Via Melissa Smith
on Mar 29, 2012
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An Inspiring Story of Paying it Forward.

Determined to do it up Texas-sized, I was planning my 40th Birthday extravaganza with a fire spinner, gospel choir, Photobooth, acrobats and more.

Shortly before the event, I received a call from an acquaintance telling me she’d like to meet up and come to my party. Turns out, we were Facebook friends, with just a few degrees of separation.

Then I got another message a few days later. This time it was an email. Intrigued by her boldness, I took a few moments before I read it to scan through her photos. She looked like a cross between a spontaneous free spirit and yet, obviously a doting self-assured mother.

I stopped short on one photo. Her eyes were stunning and sky blue, the color not unlike my grandmother’s, who passed some years ago. They seemed to see right through me, into my being. I opened her email and began to read “our” story.

I discovered that we not only share the same November birth date, but we have shared in so much more, in the serendipity of life. 

Our story:

Yesterday I went to the bank to make a deposit from some work I’m doing now. I pulled some things from my wallet to find my i.d., and uncovered the business card of Molly, whose card I’ve carried with me for almost a year. I stood there holding it in the very same spot I stood when I met her.

The year prior, in line at the bank, with my little eight-year-old standing next to me, I was having a tense moment after realizing that I had a negative balance in my account…again. This beautiful light of a woman had witnessed my anxiousness.

When I stopped for a moment to still myself and connect with my breath, she gently and gracefully saddled up next to me and asked if she could help.

‘How much do you need, honey? To make this better right now, how much?’

I looked down at my son who was looking up at me like, is she for real?

Then I answered her, ‘I need $200.’

She handed me cash and said, ‘You can pay it forward someday as you wish.’

This time of year (our birthday and Thanksgiving) is always a potent catalyst for me where I feel tremendous gratitude for life and reflect on all the support I’ve received in the previous year as is evidence that the universe is conspiring for my victory of manifesting my dreams. I’m a single mom starting a new business, juggling the worlds of mortgages and meaning and making big life changes. I left my corporate job to say yes to life.

As I stood in the bank yesterday with her card in my hand, I was flooded and consumed by this feeling of being blessed, loved and supported fully. I felt this fiery light tingling through my body all over.

When I walked out, her card in my hand, I called her for the first time since our original meeting to tell her thank you, to let her know the effect she had on this one little life and offer to pay her back the money now that I had it to give her.

When I heard her voice yesterday, I started by reminding her of our encounter. I told her my name, said thank you and tears welled in my eyes. I told her that I had the money now to pay her back and would like to. But she interjected mid sentence, ‘Oh no. Now honey, when I give, I give for good.’

As our conversation continued, she was genuinely interested in what I’m doing now. What’s my business that I’ve begun? What’s my passion?

I told her and then she said, ‘You really must meet my daughter. She’s amazing and it sounds like you two have so much in common. She lives in Houston, has two little boys, but she teaches all over…’

Finally, I asked for her daughter’s name. ‘Melissa,’ she said. ‘Melissa Smith.’


After a long pause, I said, “You have got to be kidding me. I love her, and I don’t even know her yet! I just called her this morning, in fact.’

So, there it is. No wonder you’re extraordinary, Melissa. You’ve come from a line of love.

Yours in the adventure,



I hear about stories like this, but when they happen to you personally, it moves you and gives you hope for all the things that are so good and magnificent in the world.

Ashamedly, my mother and I have scarcely spoken over the years. With my globetrotting and living just far enough away,  it’s not easy to visit with two small children. And yet, she is everywhere. I see her in how I interact with the grocery clerk, in how I want give my own money away, and I see her fearlessness in and through Monica’s eyes.

I wonder if my mother’s boldness began at 40?

I have a photo of her and I in the modest dining room of the home I grew up in. She’s just about that age. A hard-working single mother who never seemed to care that our family wasn’t quite like the rest of the Jones’. She gave the impression that she could do it all and with grace, even though I know many sacrifices were made.

Thank you, Mom, for giving to a stranger in the bank that day. This was truly the best birthday gift I’ve ever received.

‎”When you don’t know what else to do, find a way to love.”

~ Jenny Lemoine


Also by Melissa: The Fulfillment of Hope. and 3 kinds of Love By Martin Luther King.


Editor: Brianna Bemel

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About Melissa Smith

Melissa is a freelance writer, zealous traveler, momma, and AcroThaiTherapeuticsYogaLifeStudentOccasionalTeacher. She leads advanced teacher trainings for Leeann Carey Yaapana Yoga, specializing Therapeutic Partner Practice and hosts retreats in Texas, Thailand & New Orleans for Grace Yoga Retreats. Connect with her on Facebook, her Grace Yoga Blog, and Twitter. or read other Elephant Journal articles.


23 Responses to “Serendipity & the Kindness of Strangers.”

  1. Chris says:

    What a beautiful story. Thank you for sharing it. <3

  2. Bridget says:

    This is an amazing piece that reminds us all how far paying it forward can really stretch. If you've ever paid for, been paid for, or had someone smile and make the difference between a good and a terribly bad day, please read. Beautiful, important, and honest. I vow to be kinder today. What about you?

  3. melissa says:

    thanks for sharing Bridget. you are just this kind of person. I have admired you since I've met you- and certainly your giving has filled my life with joy. thank you friend. xo

  4. melissa says:

    thanks Chris! : )

  5. Anthonee says:

    Beautiful! Simply Beautiful!

  6. ValCarruthers says:

    Wow, so beautiful, Melissa. Goose bumps too!

    Just posted to "Featured Today" on the Elephant Spirituality Homepage.

    Valerie Carruthers
    Please go and "Like" Elephant Spirituality on Facebook

  7. melissa says:

    Thank you Valerie.
    In joy,

  8. melissa says:

    warming my heart! 🙂 thank you.

  9. Jules says:

    Beautiful. Love life.

  10. Wow. This morning I told someone I told someone no don't pay me back, to please just pay it forward. An hour later the kindness of a stranger helped my new teen driver. When I finally arrived on the scene this stranger refused my offer of payment and said just pay it forward. And now I read this. Thank you Melissa, as always, your writing is beautiful.

  11. melissa says:

    thank you. it all comes around. for certain. 🙂

  12. Chrys says:

    A beautiful story. Made me think of all the profound ways my own mom has blessed my life andadee the person I am. Love love Melissa Smith.

  13. Tanya Lee Markul says:

    Posted to Elephant Yoga on Facebook and Twitter.

    Tanya Lee Markul, Yoga Editor
    Like Elephant Yoga on Facebook
    Follow on Twitter

  14. melissa says:

    thanks Tanya!

  15. melissa says:

    thank you Chrys. xo

  16. Meredith Paterson says:

    Thanks for this beautiful, moving story. Wow. You are a special light in this world, Melissa, and I feel blessed to know you and see you shine.

  17. melissa says:

    thank you, Mer. me too. my life is so rich in friendships. xo

  18. Rebecca says:

    Call your mama, Girl!

  19. melissa says:

    i hear ya. done and already done. yesterday was her birthday… : )

  20. trustlifetoday says:

    What an incredible story. I too, am Facebook friends with Monica — she is one of the very few FB friends I have who I personally do not know. A close friend suggested we become friends. He thought she'd dig my writing and I'd, well, dig following a bit of her life on FB — which I do. Her pictures alone I find mesmerizing. Those eyes. Through your post, I feel I SEE he a bit better than I did before. Her grace. Her humanity. And although this is my first introduction to you, I feel as if I SEE a bit of you too. Thank you for that. And thank you for sharing. ~ Leslie

  21. Jama Santerre says:

    This sounds like an interesting opportunity. I know I could handle this no problem. $100-200 per month is still pretty low, but as easy side income it’s still worth considering.

  22. graceyogaandpilates says:

    thank you for sharing that. 🙂 our world is so small. full of grace. today my mom turned 70- a full life. xo

  23. Candi Sary says:

    Such a beautiful story!!