School, Work

pay it forward by the numbers


The Jason Derulo song, “Want to Want Me” played on my car stereo and I cranked up the volume; on my commute in to work.

When the truck slowed our traffic lane I wasn’t complaining.  I hit the repeat button on this track and eased off the gas.  Usually I am impatient on my drive in to work, to start my day, but the beat of this song got me pumped.   I didn’t mind the extra time today.

When the older gentleman took his time across the crosswalk, as I waited to make my right turn, I sat watching the cars behind me and moved to the beat.  As he stepped onto the curve he waved in gratitude; smiling as he watched my singing antics in the confines of my car.  I had to smile and wave back.

I’m paying it forward; no pun intended.

These past weeks I have been lost in the quagmire of financial paperwork.   The EDD spokesperson curtly barked instructions and I finally laughed and admitted I had NO IDEA what she was saying.  And with that her voice immediately changed.  The joy of transparency is that people can take me at face value and I called her out; reading the confusing paperwork word-for-word.  No longer do I need to put on airs pretending I know everything about anything.  At the end of the call she thanked me for making her day.


My sons know to not bother me with their math homework questions; leaving that to my numbers-oriented and logical-minded hubs.   When a booster parent asked me to calculate the percentage to add to her donation amount for PayPal I sat for twenty minutes with an algebraic equation on my desk.  I was off by two cents.  I can do the number crunching if I absolutely have to; it was required for my coursework in high school and college with the science track I had chosen.  It is in calculus that I met my hubs.  I attended every single 8 AM lecture in that course to earn my grade and sat in the very front row.  He attended the lecture three times; for the first day, the midterm and the final, and ended with the same exact grade.    He arrived late and would sit in the back.

The numbers keep landing in my lap and the paperwork that accompanies them.  I handle the finances/payroll for work, I “volunteered” to help at the elementary school as a treasurer and currently, as auditor.  And at the end of last year I stepped in, at the very last minute, to assist my son’s high school organization after no other parent chose to step up.    QuickBooks is my very best friend; my mood dour as I run reports and stats for work and the organizations in which I serve.  Bill collection is the very least of my favorite things.


When people meet me they are surprised that I am shy.  My preferred environment is a quiet corner in a large library; to sit and read and people-watch.  But over the years I have been forced to deal with my aversion to speaking my words, and to speak them loud and clear.  My parents enrolled me in piano lessons; hoping that would bring me out of my shell.  During recitals I would always have to repeat the first few measures of my piece; the public attention causing me to freeze.   When I enrolled in band, at age nine, I enjoyed being lost in the group of students; the music surrounding me created by those alongside.  In high school I was forced to yell and cheer; upon trying out with my girlfriend to keep her company.  The intention had never been to actually make the songleading squad; relieved to be joining the band on the field during football half-time shows.

In college I worked for the very busy financial aid office at the private institution I attended.  Irate parents would call; demanding answers to all things financial aid and I would timidly search for someone to assist me.  The powerful head of this department finally found me one day and I sat quietly; awaiting her words to fire me and let me go.  The words from her lips had surprised me.   I hadn’t known it was rare for college work-study students to work in this department with the confidential paperwork at my fingertips.  I had been chosen to work in this office based on something I had written in my college essay.  When applying to colleges I had been forced to fill out the financial aid paperwork alone; seeking help from my high school counselor.  It was my job to pay it forward to the frantic parents calling our office; to let them know the student’s point of view and to advocate for their son or daughter to handle this paperwork themselves.  If I could do it; their kids could too.


Since that very first job her words have followed me when doing the things I least like to do; making the phone calls for bill collection or delivering bad news.  After that first job I worked in the staffing office of a large private hospital.  My job was to fill the staffing slots on the nursing floors and to beg and plead with nurses to come in to work on their days off.  It was in this job that I finally learned how to read people; my mentor who continues to work at this same hospital and is beloved by all; doctors, administrators and staff.   Through the years I have always been placed in positions of dealing with unpleasant conversations about complaints and abuses, death and dying, trusts and bill collection.  I remind myself of this fact as I call another vendor to follow-up on payment status.  And I stare at the list of names I need to call for the booster organization which I serve.  I wish it would just go away.  But life doesn’t work that way.

In hopes that people will pay their financial obligations, I also need to pay forward the lessons I have learned from my boss in financial aid and my dear friend in the staffing office.  Jason Derulo plays on repeat on my work computer.  Time to get to work; the numbers await.

Happy Fall.


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