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Pay It Forward: How A Car Sale Turned Into An Unexpected Act Of Kindness


If you're looking for something to be thankful for this week, we're hoping a twist in the sale of a car may be just the thing. NPR's Stu Rushfield reports.

STU RUSHFIELD, BYLINE: Henry Stirman is a college sophomore at UC Santa Cruz. For years, he's been saving up to buy a decent used car.

HENRY STIRMAN: I worked as a barista at a local coffee shop. I repainted a room in our neighbor's house. I had an internship at a software company - birthday money, Christmas money. Put in new hardwood floors. Just a lot of saving a couple bucks here, a couple bucks there.

RUSHFIELD: While Stirman worked to buy a car, Hua Kuan had a car to sell. Kuan was born and lived in Mexico for about 13 years. His parents had immigrated there from China.

HUA KUAN: We didn't really grow up in a very nice area. I had to work when I was younger, restaurant work. I started, you know, cleaning dishes, bussing tables.

RUSHFIELD: Kuan's family headed north to California in the late 1990s. A few years later, he was awarded a full scholarship to UC Berkeley. During junior year, his proud parents bought him a 2006 Acura TSX.

KUAN: My parents are blue-collar workers, worked very hard for their money. And they bought it to me as a first car. They're like, this is the only gift that we're able to provide with you. And I've been driving that car since it was brand new with five miles for about 14 years now.

RUSHFIELD: But Kuan is a 35-year-old dentist now, and his friends convinced him to upgrade his ride. He listed his beloved Acura for sale on Craigslist. Henry Stirman saw the ad for the black car with gold wheels and over 150,000 miles and thought it just might be the one. So last Saturday, he headed 90 minutes north to the Bay Area.

STIRMAN: I had my dad drive up with me. And my brother and sister came along, too. And we met him at the police station for safety.

RUSHFIELD: After a test drive, the 19-year-old was ready to buy. He handed Kuan an envelope with their agreed upon $7,000 in cash. Then, Stirman says...

STIRMAN: We went over the paperwork. And then he said, you know what? And he took out a thousand dollars, and he handed it back to me. And he said, I want to wish you good luck in college, and pay it forward in the future.

RUSHFIELD: Kuan says he had a good feeling about the hard-working Stirman.

KUAN: To me, if I could give him the joy of having something that he didn't expect to have, it would teach him about kindness. And I think kindness is not something that you can learn; it's just something that you can receive. And once you've experienced it, then you're able and more willing to give it out.

RUSHFIELD: And Stirman...

STIRMAN: I was shocked. I was so touched. I - if there wasn't a pandemic, I would have hugged him.

RUSHFIELD: And he says he'll never forget the gesture Hua Kuan made.

STIRMAN: This is something that I'll remember for the rest of my life. An act of kindness goes a long way, and hopefully at some point in my life, I can do something that'll be remembered for the rest of that person's life.

RUSHFIELD: So, folks, our marching orders - let's all try an act of kindness this week because that's something to be thankful for, even after all the turkey is gone.

For NPR News, I'm Stu Rushfield.

(SOUNDBITE OF PEGGY GOU SONG, "STARRY NIGHT") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Stu Rushfield
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