Woman’s Act Of Kindness Towards A Stranger Gave Her The Most Unlikely Payoff

The most dreaded words in the world: your card is declined. Nothing else triggers that level of hot faced creeping shame. It plays out one of two ways. Either you flee, leaving your goods on the conveyor belt, ignoring the stares of fellow shoppers. Or, like an angel sent from heaven, someone steps up and foots your bill.

One woman witnessed a man in the checkout register without a way to pay. While she was unsure of the circumstances, it didn’t matter. She reached into her wallet to pay for his order. When he turned to thank her, she suddenly realized her act of kindness was bestowed on a person that looked awfully familiar.

Ruth Reed pulled into the parking lot of her local Wawa, a popular convenience store chain. She knew her Medford, New Jersey, branch like the back of her hand. She could get all her shopping down relatively quickly, without fear of bumping into someone she knew.

She paced the aisles, grabbing the things on her list absentmindedly, a task she could probably manage with her eyes closed, she was that familiar with the store. Next, Ruth made her way to the checkout line.

From her place a few people back in the line, Ruth clocked a man at the register who was causing a bit of a delay. From his nervous scramble for his wallet, Ruth knew he was in the classic pickle of not having enough money.

Flickr / Susan Sermoneta

Seconds ticked by. The clerk waited, so did Ruth and the customer in front of her. Finally, the guy gave up searching for more money to magically appear in his wallet; he knew what he had to do. Swallowing his ego, he turned to ask for help.

The Morning Call / Amy Shortell

At the sight of his embarrassed expression, Ruth was reminded of the New Years Resolution she’d made months before: to seek out opportunities for acts of kindness. When the man asked the customer behind him for a few dollars, Ruth volunteered.


Ruth ponied up the five dollars to cover the remainder of the man’s groceries, noticing something vaguely familiar about him. As a retired school teacher who still substitutes regularly, this deja vu was a regular experience.

YouTube / TMZ

Odds were this guy was a former student. That had to explain the sheepish look of understanding plastered on his face. Ruth searched her brain for his name and thankfully he asked for hers, so he probably wasn’t a student.

SBS / Instagram / World of Wonder

The man identified himself as Keith. Huh, thought Ruth. He really looked like a Keith. That’s when understanding washed over her. She chuckled and told him he resembled another Keith who happens to be a famous country singer.

Turns out, this Keith was the very same Keith she had referenced; Keith Urban. Singer, guitar player, husband to Nicole Kidman, you know, that Keith Urban. Ruth unknowingly paid for the groceries of a famous millionaire!

Now Ruth was no sucker. How could New Zealand born, Australian bred, arena packing superstar Keith Urban find himself in a suburban Wawa? Why did he not have the money to cover his groceries? Was this a prank?

Nashville Country Daily

Surely a high-profile half of one of the world’s most famous couples would have people to run his errands. Ruth was skeptical. Her thoughts immediately went to the sarcastic possibility of Nicole Kidman combing the isles for potato chips.

Popsugar / Stepford Wives / Paramount Pictures

That’s when Ruth remembered she’d seen a woman shopping with this self-professed Keith Urban. She questioned him about it, thinking she’d gotten his goose. Keith explained the woman was his sister. His wife, Oscar-winner Nicole Kidman, was waiting at home. 

Flickr / Walt Disney Television

Still, Ruth had reservations. Yeah, right, you’re Keith “Days Go By” Urban, she mused unconvinced. Suddenly a rather bulky man accompanying Keith piped up to confirm his identity. The presence of a bodyguard turned Ruth into a believer.

YouTube / Pickler and Ben

The rich and famous aren’t immune to life’s little snags. Keith tried to pay for his items with his credit card but there was some sort of error. The musician didn’t have the cash on his person to cover it.

Just Jared / Juan Sharma / Pacific Coast News Online

Keith answered Ruth’s questions with a wide smile. He explained he was one of those particular wealthy people who preferred to do some everyday tasks for himself. No one better to pick out the snack you’re craving than yourself, he reasoned.

YouTube / Spotify

Freaking out to the nth degree, Ruth was floored that her life had randomly intersected with a country music icon. To his credit, Keith was gracious. Ruth had done him a major solid after all. He dutifully posed for a selfie as a small thank you for her kindness.

Naturally, Ruth was bursting to tell everybody she knew about the person she helped in Wawa. The local news picked up the story and interviewed her about helping Keith Urban. She used the platform to encourage others to spread kindness.

While it was undoubtedly cool to find out that she’d done a good deed for Keith Urban, Ruth insisted her motivation was the satisfaction of spreading kindness. It’s something she works into her weekly routine, that everyone has the capability to do.

Lotus Wei

The community was totally smitten by Ruth’s message. In fact, Wawa decided to honor her initiative and reward customers with free coffee. Her story went viral on Facebook, which led others to pay it forward, even without the hope of a celeb interaction.

On the news, Ruth said that we’re quick to notice bad deeds and mistakes. We should spend just as much time and effort helping to make life a bit easier for others while we can since it makes a lasting impact. Some people followed her advice.

Jamie-Lynne Knighten had a lot on her plate. She and her husband recently welcomed a new baby into the world, and she had to devote nearly all her time and energy into caring for him. She knew she could really use a guardian angel.

ABC News

Following a draining trip, Jamie-Lynne touched down in Southern California. She would’ve liked nothing more than to go home and sleep, but the Knightens had almost no food left in the house. She decided to make a quick run to the store.

So Cal Meto / Flickr

So Jamie-Lynne headed over to the Trader Joe’s in Oceanside with her five-month-old in tow. Weaving through the busy aisles, she filled up her cart with a number of items. However, this errand wasn’t going as smoothly as she hoped.

Her worn-out infant was throwing a tantrum in the store. Between trying to calm him down and apologizing to other customers around them, Jamie-Lynne barely had time to scan the shelves for food she wanted!

Finally, the tired mom and kid made it to check out. With any luck, the line would move swiftly, and they could get home in a matter of minutes. Jamie-Lynne stepped up to the register and pulled out her credit card.

Except for each time she swiped, the register declined her card! Realizing that the bank thought she was still traveling, Jamie-Lynne panicked. How was she going to pay for this huge grocery order?

Moments later, she felt a tap on her shoulder and whirled around to face a stranger. Without giving him a chance to speak, the stressed mom said she was sorry for the delay. The last thing she needed was a customer screaming, too.

NBC San Diego

Except, scanning over Jamie-Lynne’s $200 order, the customer — who introduced himself as Matthew Jackson — made a shocking offer. He said he would pay for her entire cart, though with one condition.

Jamie-Lynne had to pay it forward and someday do the same for someone else in need. Grateful beyond belief, she accepted his generous proposition. The mom also insisted on jotting down Matthew’s information, so she could pay him back.

Matthew mentioned he worked at a nearby LA Fitness, so Jamie-Lynne called the gym the next day. When she asked for Matthew Jackson, however, all she heard on the other line was a sob.

That sobbing came from Angela Lavinder, the manager of the LA Fitness. Once she took a moment to calm herself, Angela explained that Matthew wouldn’t be able to meet. There had been an accident.

NBC San Diego

Less than 24 hours after Matthew paid for the Knighten’s groceries, his car had veered into a tree. Two passengers with him entered the hospital with severe injuries, but Matthew got the worst of the crash.

He died from the trauma shortly after. This news shook Jamie-Lynne to her core. Was it possible that the life of this Good Samaritan was snuffed out just moments after their brief meeting? She soon found out that his selflessness wasn’t an isolated incident either.

NBC San Diego

Notably, Matthew and his mother traveled to Phoenix, Arizona, one summer. When he spotted a homeless man sitting alone on the sidewalk, Matthew jumped out of the car on a busy street to hand him a bottle of water.

It was so unfair, Jamie-Lynne thought, for this young man’s bright future to be cut short. At the very least, however, she pledged to make good on her final promise to Matthew. She would pay it forward.

So Jamie-Lynne went online and set up an organization called Matthew’s Legacy. She asked all interested members to “please do something extraordinary for a stranger to honor #MatthewsLegacy and help restore faith in humanity.”

Los Angeles Times

Jamie-Lynne began sharing photos (like the one below) and stories of her family performing various acts of kindness. Soon, the number of members of Matthew’s Legacy climbed into the thousands, and then the tens of thousands. Other people started submitting stories, too.

Facebook / MatthewsLegacy

People from all over the world posted themselves paying it forward, big and small experiences with kind strangers. Collectively, they were really making a difference in the world. This fact was not lost on Matthew’s friends and family, either.

Nic Carlson, one of the passengers in Matthew’s car during the fatal crash, saw it as a perfect tribute to his friend. Speaking to Matthew’s special character, Nic said he “always wanted to make people feel better or fix a problem that they had.”

NBC San Diego

For Jamie-Lynne, it was a cathartic experience to somehow pay back the kindness she received at such a vulnerable moment. Matthew’s Legacy gave her a chance to teach her children the value of good deeds. They saw firsthand one little action can affect people.

Matthew deserved more out of life. However, now thousands of people are following his example and living out the values that he stood for. Just take for example this family from Colorado…

It should come as no surprise, but homelessness can really wear on a person. With no stability in life, it can be nearly impossible to find a job or the money necessary to fix your situation. Olivia and her family knew all about that.

Denver 7 / YouTube

As the winter of 2016 approached, Olivia; her husband, Eric; and their three children found life pretty hopeless. They lived in a converted school bus that repeatedly broke down, and they had no money, no jobs, and no prospects. Nothing was going well for them.

Go Fund Me

The family moved from Florida to Missouri in hopes of a better life, but they found few opportunities there. They hit the road again, but they hadn’t even traveled 1,000 miles before their bus broke down in Colorado. At that point, they were homeless, jobless, penniless, and stuck.

Denver 7 / YouTube

From there, the nightmare worsened. Someone stole all of Eric’s IDs. They couldn’t find work, and making matters infinitely worse, they couldn’t find the money for RV sites. That’s how they ended up parked behind a gas station on Thanksgiving Day.


“We didn’t think we were going to have a Christmas at all,” Olivia told Denver 7 News. “We’d have been lucky if we had enough food, or if we got jobs.” As a family, they were at rock bottom. And then they came face to face with Virginia Kinch…

Trevor Reid / Greeley Tribune

It was a strange set of circumstances that allowed for Virginia and Olivia to meet. Back in September 2016, Virginia had been selling some items from her basement on Craigslist when several interesting responses filled her mailbox.

Go Fund Me

Single mothers seemed to be the only people responding to Virginia’s Craigslist postings. None of them could afford Virginia’s stuff, but they all offered to exchange work for the items they wanted. That’s when Virginia had an idea.

Denver 7 / YouTube

Instead of selling the junk she’d cleaned out of her basement, Virginia decided to give it away. “Take what you need,” she told the inquiring mothers. Virginia wanted to support those in need, and she truly enjoyed the feeling that came from being generous.

Go Fund Me

By the time Thanksgiving rolled around, Virginia, her husband, and their three teenage daughters were passing out food to the homeless around town. They knew about the family living behind the gas station in a broken down bus, so they prepared them a special Thanksgiving meal.

But when Virginia and her family knocked on the bus’s door—and came face to face with Olivia and her kids—they saw something eerie. It was like looking in a mirror. There, homeless, broke, and hungry, were a mother, a father, and three little girls. In another life, it could have been the Kinch family in that bus—and that broke Virginia’s heart.

Go Fund Me

“We fed them and went home and cried,” Virginia told Denver 7 News, “and decided that we needed to do something.” But what could they do? Virginia and her husband had their own house and children to take care of. Still, the family had an unbelievable idea…

Denver 7 / YouTube

The Kinch family had a second house in the city of Greeley, Colorado. Virginia and her husband had planned to rent or sell it, but after chatting with Olivia behind the gas station, they thought of a better use for it.

Denver 7 / YouTube

That’s how Virginia ended up driving back to ask Olivia and her family if they wanted to move into the Kinch’s spare house. “I just didn’t think it was real,” Olivia said. “Like a cruel joke… ’cause who does that? Nobody does that.”

Denver 7 / YouTube

“We just couldn’t leave them like that [with] those little babies in the cold,” Virginia told the Longmont Daily Times-Call. She donated her house to people she didn’t know at all until they got back on their feet. But Virginia wasn’t finished!

Denver 7 / YouTube

For a week, Virginia and her family collected donations of food, clothes, and toys from people around the town. Her teenage daughters even offered to return Christmas presents so more money could go to supporting Olivia and her kids! The community had even more surprises for the struggling family…

Go Fund Me

Remember that Olivia’s husband, Eric, had lost all of his forms of identification somewhere along the way to Colorado? Well, the local church in Greeley, Colorado, stepped in and helped find replacements!

While Eric had his IDs replaced, Olivia found daycare for her kids. Without having to care for and supervise them 24 hours per day, she and her husband were free to interview for jobs again. They had momentum in the right direction!

Go Fund Me

“It can be really difficult to get out of homelessness. People don’t understand that it’s so unstable, it’s so hard to get your footing and get out of it,” explained Olivia. Thanks to Virginia, though, this family was certainly on their way.

Denver 7 / YouTube

Meanwhile, Virginia plotted what to do with the property once Olivia and her family were able to secure a residence of their own. If all went well, she figured she’d loan the house to another homeless family in need.

Go Fund Me

In the end, because Virginia and her family cared about others so much, Olivia and her kids were able to have a very merry, indoor Christmas! Olivia said it best: “People just need someone to care.”

Go Fund Me

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