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Paying it Forward is Great!

by Saralee Perel

When I told my husband, Bob, what I've been doing, he said, "If you tell others, they could feel as good as you."

I have a crush on Jared Whittemore. (Sorry Bob.) We met when he worked at Stop & Shop in Marstons Mills.

While I was awkwardly moving groceries from my motorized shopping cart to the conveyor belt, Jared, without me asking, took over and did it for me. He then insisted on taking the bags to my truck.

"I have nothing to give you," I said.

"I wouldn't take a thing from you. I love helping."

"Then who's your manager? I've got to tell someone how amazing you are."

He was too shy to tell me.

I teased him. "I'll find out anyway."

He still wouldn't say. Then I felt too timid and lazy to go back in the store. So I gave myself one of my talks: "Any action, no matter how seemingly small, can change a life."

What motivates me to break through my bashfulness and do-nothingness? It's how badly I'll feel if I don't. So I went back in the store.

Daron, the assistant store manager, was elated, though not surprised, to hear how wonderful Jared was to me. That day, he gave Jared a reward.

I began a quest. One in which I receive as much happiness as my recipients do.

Nancy, a pharmacist at Rite Aid in Marstons Mills, is the queen of helpfulness. I said, "Everyone's so caring here. Is there a supervisor I could tell that to?"

Books by Saralee Perel.
Click on the book covers to link to the purchase sites

Shyly she said, "Taking our survey would help if you wouldn't mind."

That survey took two minutes. What a small thing to do for someone who's so exceptional.

My helpers modestly claim that kindheartedness is a part of their jobs. I know it's more than that. Extraordinary kindness is a result of who people are on the inside, not the product of a job description.

I also have a crush on Zack at PetSmart in Hyannis. He'd walk a mile to save me four steps.

At first I focused on the hassle of calling his manager. Then I thought sarcastically, "Such torture to press numbers on my touchtone handset." I picked up the phone.

The manager, Steve, proudly told me that Zack is more than a great worker; he's an outstanding human being who cares deeply about everyone. That day, he surprised Zack with free stuff.

Last week, Jared texted me. "It was a blessing meeting you."

He feels blessed? Because of Jared, I began helping myself by helping others.

If we look, we'll find Jareds and Nancys and Zacks everywhere. But they won't be conspicuous. They'll be in the background, busily doing for others by quietly running those extra miles.

Saralee Perel is an award-winning nationally syndicated columnist. Her new book, Cracked Nuts & Sentimental Journeys: Stories From a Life Out of Balance, is available in local bookstores.

It can also be ordered through Amazon, or directly from the publisher, as well as from Saralee for a personalized signed copy.

Her novel, Raw Nerves, is also available as a paperback and an e-book on Amazon.

For more information, please visit her website: or e-mail her at

Saralee with Jared at Stop & Shop in Marstons Mills