I'm deathly afraid of teens. When I worked in the library, I had enough run in's with them to go from dislike to pure fear. When Scott worked in the library, I would hear of death threats and the snotty comments he would always get. Teenagers can make fun of me all they want. My generational movies were Star Wars and E.T, theirs is Twilight, so I can understand their anger. It's when they get violent and threatening that I can't handle.
The other night I had a craving for a donut pretty bad (it's a pregnancy craving, so it doesn't count, right??) so Scott and I walked over to our local donut shop. It was later at night and these teenagers were hanging out inside. They were joking around making fun of everything as usual, and one of them really had too much of a good time ordering donut holes (calling them "BALLS", so much eyerolling at this moment). Once they quickly got bored with it, they were making fun of Scott, his shoes, there was no filter to their thoughts.
However, they quickly stopped laughing after they didn't have enough change to buy their donuts. I don't know if it was the pregnancy hormones, fear, or because I was impatient because I really wanted that donut, but I offered to buy it for them. Along with a dozen donuts, and drinks. For the first time, I saw the fear in them. I live in an area that is divided- one side has beautiful historic homes while the other side is struggling to pay for rent. A good percentage of the kids are living out of hotels or living in overcrowded apartments. This could have been their dinner. I had no idea how they are treated at home, but their reaction was enough to let me know it wasn't good. A part of me felt like hugging them, but also asking them to never egg my house. I had an understanding of them now- hurt people hurt people.
This was completely out of my comfort zone, especially with teenagers. I was encouraged to pay it forward from Jess. It was something that I wanted to do, but I couldn't imagine how it would happen. The moment it happened, you don't question it. Whether it's opening the door for someone, or even a smile, it really makes a difference to them more than it will ever to you.