Suzanne Maggio: Pay It Forward

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In the throes of hardship, Suzanne Maggio found that lightening someone else’s load helped lighten her own.

I was standing in line at the Walgreens on Divisadero. A few blocks away my husband lay in a hospital bed.

Five days had passed since his surgery and he still couldn’t eat. It had been hard to see him struggling. The doctor thought chewing gum might stir his appetite. I hurried off to buy two packs. Finally, something I could do.

The walls inside Walgreens were stained with age. Gum was locked in large plastic cases—like everything else in the store. A sad commentary on life in the City.

A young woman in scrubs dropped snacks and an iced tea on the counter. A nurse on break.


Someone yelled from the back of the store: “There’s a man breaking into the ice cream freezer.”

Seconds later, a disheveled man hurried towards the exit, a backpack slung over one shoulder and a bolt cutter in his hand.

The cashier was rattled. Her voice, sharp. “You don’t have enough,” she said as the nurse laid her money on the counter.

“I’ve got to get back to work. Can I come back later and pay you?” she asked.

The cashier shook her head.

My heart ached. The locked cabinets. The desperate man. My husband’s health. Sometimes the world feels too much to bear.

“I’ve got it,” I said, and handed her the money.

“Thanks,” the nurse said. I smiled.

People say when you do something for someone else you feel lighter, more connected, less lonely. In the midst of all that chaos, there was an opportunity. Something small I could do.

I could never have imagined that a chance exchange in Walgreens would give me hope, but it did. I returned to my husband’s hospital room with gum and a new sense of optimism. Nurses hurried in and out. There was still so much pain in the world. And so much I couldn’t do. But the chance to do even the smallest kindness was a small price to pay for big change.

With a Perspective, I’m Suzanne Maggio.

Suzanne Maggio is a social worker, author and podcast host. She is passionate about creating a more just, caring and compassionate world.