When I was younger, I remember whenever I didn’t feel well, was sick in bed without the want to get up, with the blankets wrapped tightly around my sore noggin, and generally lacking the desire to eat, my mom, and sometimes my sister, would offer me a cup of hot tea and some buttered toast to soothe and nourish my aches and pains.
I loved those moments. Well, yeah, sans the sick part, of course, but everything about the love that came with the tea and toast. A gesture that held an abundance of meaning. One that I carried with me throughout my days, held onto to it, knowing that some day I’d get the chance to Pay It Forward.
One day Rudy and I met. A month or so later we were dating, in a very serious way. Within weeks, he was uncharacteristically ill. He had called me to say he wouldn’t be able to go out that evening. I told him I’d be right over. I found him stretched out on the couch he shared with his roommates. His dark-skinned cheeks were blushing from a fever. And he had no energy to move. I watered down a wash cloth with cold water, folded it onto his forehead, cooled him down.
And then. I made him a cup of tea and a slice of buttered toast.
He didn’t drink or eat my offerings, only because he really just wanted to sleep. And sleep he did. I waited until he woke again then made a fresh cup of tea and a new slice of buttered toast. “Thanks,” he whispered, his voice sounding hoarse.
Years later, when I was feeling out-of-sorts, Rudy walked into the bedroom, bringing in a cup of tea and buttered toast. “Paying it Forward,” he smiled.