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'Pay-it-forward' at Dairy Queen brings customers and staff to tears
02:49 - Source: CNN
CNN  — 

What started as a random act of kindness from one man paying for the car behind him in a Dairy Queen drive-thru resulted in over 900 cars also taking part in the pay it forward chain.

There’s no question about it: This year has been tough for so many. Some, fighting battles we may know nothing about. But at a drive-thru in Brainerd, Minnesota, over 100 miles north of Minneapolis, people stepped up in a small way to show one another that they care.

Tina Jensen, the store manager at one of the two Dairy Queens in town, told CNN a man came by the drive-thru window on Thursday and asked if he could pay for his meal and for the car behind him.

Jensen told her cashier this tends to happen once in a while but at most it lasts for 15 or 20 cars and fizzles out.

This time, the chain continued for two and a half days with over 900 cars participating, raking in $10,000 in sales, according to Jensen.

When the next customer came to the fast food chain’s window, Jensen explained what the man in front of them had done – and the acts of kindness continued to multiply.

“There’s all different types of ways to help people,” Jensen said. “I think this touched a lot of people that we didn’t even know it touched, deeper than we know. And you don’t know what’s going on in a person’s life.”

When the chain closed for the night Thursday, one car left $10 to begin the chain back up Friday morning and again on Saturday morning. Jensen provided updates on the number of cars at each day’s end on the store’s Facebook page.

Heidi Bruse experienced that act of kindness on Friday evening during a dinner run, she told CNN.

“During times like these it kinda restores your faith in humanity a little,” Bruse said. “The way the world is now you see a lot of anger, tension, and selfish behavior. What we witnessed was pure kindness and it was a breath of fresh air really.”

But that wasn’t even the best part. For Bruse, it was going home to tell her family that they played a role in the chain and kept it going.

“Not that we got free ice cream,” she said. “The gesture was way more valuable.”

Like so many others in the restaurant industry, the restaurant has faced some challenges adapting to new business practices during the coronavirus pandemic.

“With the lobby shutting down, being only open for take out, being able to open for half your capacity, different things like that,” have played a role in trying to keep morale high, Jensen said. Her top priority is the safety of her customers and crew with increased disinfecting and cleaning measures, she said.

Seeing how positive her staff became with every passing car paying it forward, married to the reactions of her customers when the cashier told them their meal had been taken care of, was touching, Jensen said.

“No matter what’s going on, take care of each other, be positive, be happy and don’t focus on the negative, we’ll get through it,” she said.