CHRISTMAS IN FLORIDA: The Gift of Paying It Forward

Little Addison, right, got a surprise gift from me at the Tampa Bay Buccaneers game on Sunday.

Little Addison, right, got a surprise gift from me at the Tampa Bay Buccaneers game on Sunday.

Addison got a little surprise today, something she never expected.

To be honest, it kind of surprised me that I did it. But this is my “Christmas in Florida” and it’s coming to a close, so why not?

There I was inside a Tampa Bay Buccaneers team store, buying a hat and a t-shirt, when I saw this cute little teddy bear wearing a Bucs shirt.

How cool would it have been if I had a little one in my life to give it to, a total out-of-the blue surprise?

Well, I don’t have a little one back home. Truth be told, I don’t have anybody.

But somebody does.

I bought the bear and started walking around the stadium looking for somebody to give it to.

Why would I pick some random kid and give them a brand, spanking new little teddy bear that supports a team I couldn’t give two hoots about it.

Well, it is the season of giving.

But there is another reason, too.

Earlier in 2015 — quite earlier, to be honest — a guy I know from my local deli bought my breakfast sandwich and coffee — that’ll be $5.38, sir, thank you very much — and told me to pay it forward.

I promised him I would.

Now and then I looked for opportunities, but never pulled the trigger and paid it forward.

One time, while in line at Wendy’s there was an attractive woman in the car behind me and thought she’d appreciate this moment. It was time for me to pay if forward.

Then, when I found out her total was $23 and change, I promised myself, “Next time.” After all, I only had a $20 on me and I still had to eat.

Well, “next time” finally arrived today when I saw that little teddy bear.

I walked around the entire third level — up in the cheap seats, if you can call NFL tickets as such — looking for just the right-aged kid.

Too young and she might bite the bears’ eyes off.  Too old and it would seem too weird.

Then there she was, little Addison, standing next to her mom, waiting for her dad to either come back from food or bathroom before heading back into the stadium’s seating area.

I approached the mom and asked if the little girl was hers. She said she was, so I explained my dilemma.

I was from Connecticut, having made the trip south for the St. Petersburg Bowl (her husband just happened to attend the game, I found out) and I owed somebody a “pay it forward.” I told her how I saw the little Buccaneer bear and thought how cool it would be to give it to a little kid, a surprise holiday gift coming out of the blue at a football game.

The mother said something about it being sweet, so I knew I was in. I asked if it was OK if I gave it to her daughter.

She said, “Yes” and when I pulled it out Addison’s eyes got big — that look of “It’s for me?”

She took it and hugged it right away. She was shy and ran right to mom’s legs, but she did give me obligatory thank you.

I asked the mom if she would take a picture of Addison and me, knowing I’d put it here as a reminder to everybody to randomly to do something nice for somebody and just ask them to pay it forward.

Plus, I wanted it so I’ll always remember Addison and remember the day I made that little lady smile with an out-of-the-blue surprise.

I hope Addison never forgets the man who gave her the bear at the Tampa Bay Buccaneers game in December of 2015.

For a couple of reasons now, I know I’ll never forget this trip.

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