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NPR Arts & Life

The Call-In: Paying It Forward

LAUREN FRAYER, HOST:

Time now for The Call-In.

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FRAYER: Last week, we asked you for your stories about paying it forward - an act of kindness that spreads from one person to another. Here are three that warmed our hearts. A warm meal is at the center of our first story.

NEILGUN KURDI: My name is Neilgun Kurdi, and I'm originally from Turkey.

FRAYER: Kurdi left Istanbul 20 years ago and moved to California. It was there that she gave birth to her first child.

KURDI: Back in Turkey, when you have a baby, it's time for celebration. People come, and they bring food and gifts, and you're never alone.

FRAYER: But in a new country with a new baby, she found herself isolated, lonely and exhausted.

KURDI: I think it was the third day of our arrival with our new firstborn from the hospital that our dear friend whom we just met at the time - Nikki (ph) arrived. And - I still get to choke up sometimes when I go back to that moment because she showed up with a pot of that nutritious, hearty stew that was going to feed us for the next two days.

FRAYER: Kurdi has paid Nikki's meal forward by cooking dozens more for new parents over the years, even ones she barely knows.

KURDI: If I see that mother in a street and if I chat more than a sentence, then I would cook for her. I mean, it's just - I don't have to be super good friends anymore because Nikki didn't know me (laughter) when she brought that pot of stew.

FRAYER: But for Neilgun Kurdi of California, kindness comes in a pot of stew. For others, it's warm clothes and blankets.

EMILY BORGHARD: The folks in the subway, when they would see me coming, started saying, oh, the blanket fairy's here. Quick, everyone, the blanket fairy.

FRAYER: That's Emily Borghard of New York City. On the clock, she's a social worker, a profession she pursued after people offered her a helping hand.

BORGHARD: I was having some medical difficulties, and people were helping me. People were going out of their way to get me back on my feet.

FRAYER: On the subway, she's a blanket fairy who began by buying hats and gloves and handing them out to homeless people on the train.

BORGHARD: I realized people were watching what I was doing, and little by little, people started handing me money and saying, go buy some more stuff. This is really wonderful. Thank you. And I realized that there was a much greater need, that I couldn't keep up with the demand.

FRAYER: So she started an online fundraiser, and donations poured in. This winter, Borghard's already distributed dozens of hats, gloves and fleece blankets.

BORGHARD: I think sometimes people think that paying it forward has to be something huge, but it can be a small act of kindness. And that little extra, hello, I'm paying attention to you might change their day.

FRAYER: Sometimes that small act can cost as little as 25 cents. For our final paying-it-forward story, let's hear from Jacqueline White, whose generosity takes place in the parking lot of Aldi's (ph), the discount grocery store.

JACQUELINE WHITE: And at Aldi's, you have to pay a quarter to get a cart.

FRAYER: A shopping cart. And when you return that cart, you get your quarter back.

WHITE: And I never take my cart back and get my quarter. I always leave it for the next person.

FRAYER: It might not seem like a huge act of kindness, but for White...

WHITE: Twenty years ago or so, I was on food stamps, and I didn't have a quarter for a cart. So now that I've been a nurse 30 years, I've never, ever taken my car back and got the quarter. I always pay it forward. It may be little, but at that time, if somebody would have left a cart, I would have been so appreciative.

FRAYER: That was Jacqueline White of South Bend, Ind.

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FRAYER: Next week on The Call-In, when you're married or in a long-term relationship, sometimes sharing everything can get you into trouble, especially in the digital world. Do you share passwords and devices with your partner? How far should digital privacy extend in your marriage? What are the digital rules you live by in your personal relationships? Call 202-216-9217. Be sure to include your full name and your phone number but not your password, and we may use it on the air. That's 202-216-9217. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.