‘Pay it forward’ moment at Walmart repaid with grateful hugs
When Elsie Upchurch visited Walmart last week, things didn’t turn out how she had planned.
“I was at Walmart because I had been given a gift card, and I made my purchase and it was $133, but the gift card was for $100,” she said. “For some reason, we couldn’t get it to go through, so we went to the side and my son was calling the company to see what was going on.”
Upchurch left her items, including a tablet that she said would help her greatly with her vision problems, on the belt. While she was distracted, the cashier tapped her on her shoulder and handed her a receipt and her bagged items.
“I was in a daze; I didn’t know what she was talking about,” Upchurch said.
The cashier said a couple standing behind her — Upchurch said it was a man and woman, likely in their 30s and “fit” — had bought the items for her.
“They had paid for me and they said, ‘Pass it on,’ and all I could do was thank God and give each one of them a hug,” she said. “I didn’t get their names or nothing, I was just so happy. I’ve never had something like that happen to me before.”
The only other detail Upchurch remembers is the couple left in a Nissan Altima when she saw them in the parking lot.
Afterward, Upchurch began paying it forward immediately. She said she dropped some money in the Salvation Army kettle outside the store and she plans on donating more than usual at church and to her grandchildren.
“I can give them something, because $100 can go a long way,” she said.
Altruism like what she encountered, she said, was something she had only seen on television before.
William Jellison, an associate professor of psychology at Quinnipiac University with a specialty in social psychology, said the “holiday spirit” could be a real phenomenon, but it likely stems more from empathy than generosity.
“We want to help to relieve our own discomfort of imagining what it might be like (to need help), so if I see myself as a generous person or a helping person, I’m more likely to help,” Jellison said. “The idea that giving is what good people do around the holidays might remind people of these important values.”