Pay It Forward Pizza

Each little thing that you do can have a tremendous impact, and a huge ripple effect. ~Mason Wartman

One person can make a difference, and everyone should try. ~John F. Kennedy

In his mid-20s, Mason Wartman left Wall Street.

He left a secure job with a pretty fantastic salary to move back to Philadelphia and start a business that he really knew nothing about, but that sounded like a good idea.

He opened a pizza shop.

Not just any pizza shop – a $1 per slice shop like the ones he had gone to in Manhattan. The only problem? He didn’t know anything about pizza. But hey – he was in his mid-20s. What could go wrong?

He named his shop for his mother, and Rosa’s Pizza was born.

Business was … slow. Much slower than he expected, and certainly slower than he wanted.

But he did have a steady stream of regulars, due to his $1 per slice model. One day, a customer asked whether people ever came in without the full $1 to pay for a slice. When Mason confirmed that happened from time to time, the customer offered to prepay for a slice for the next person who asked.

Mason got out a post-it note, wrote down the purchase, and put it on the wall behind him to be redeemed by the next unhoused person who asked.

And pay-it-forward pizza began.

The walls of Rosa’s started filling with colorful post-it notes, some with heartfelt messages of encouragement for unhoused customers. Each post-it is worth a slice – and so much more.

Community members that otherwise wouldn’t be able to afford a hot meal can come to Rosa’s not as beggars, but as customers. They sit at the same high stools, look out the same windows, and eat the same meal – not a lesser meal. The same one.

In a world where money means respect and admiration – and for some, even God’s own seal of approval – Rosa’s is a reprieve from judgment, from scorn, from the social distance at which we hold the less fortunate.

And Rosa’s fills hearts as much as it feeds stomachs. Anyone who’s down on her luck can go to Rosa’s to see just how many people are rooting for her while eating a slice, looking out the window and sitting on a stool – right next to a banker, or a student, or you, or me.

Since that first customer asked that simple question: can I prepay for someone else? Rosa’s has served 150,000 slices “off the wall.”

One hundred and fifty thousand meals have been served because one person asked the right question, and the other picked up a post-it note rather than shrugging off the idea.

One customer. One dollar. One post-it note.

Don’t let anyone tell you that one person isn’t enough to make a difference.

Let’s get to work.


Tuesday: For Mother’s Day – Give A Gift Any Mother Would Love

On Mother’s Day, we see lots of advertisements for flowers, and chocolate, and jewelry (you’d think it was Valentine’s Day!). But if you’re reading this, I have a feeling you’re the type of person who thinks about gifts, and gift-giving a little bit differently. So here I’m giving you some ideas that are unique – and that warm your heart, and change someone’s life.

With Heifer International, you can purchase an animal (or a flock, or a “share” of an animal) – which will be given to a family in need. Options range from $20 for a flock of ducks, geese, or chickens, to hundreds of dollars to purchase a cow. There are even women’s empowerment projects, allowing you to sponsor women’s education and small businesses from afar.

Heifer International also ensures that the gift keeps on giving by requiring participants to “pass on” the gift by giving (at least) the first female offspring to another family in need. Participants have often gone far and above that requirement, investing in other communities and helping train new farmers.

So your donation of a flock of geese or ducks or goat or cow won’t just change one family’s life. It will change another family’s, too. (And then another. And another.) And for a limited time, there’s a matching program that is tripling the impact of your gift.

The International Rescue Committee also has some fantastic Mothers Day gift options – like three newborn baby kits (filled with soap, clothing, diapers and other things they’ll need), care for a mother and her new baby, or schooling for two girls for one year. And until midnight on 5/13, AirBnB will be matching gifts – meaning your gift will go that much further.

And lastly, there’s Parcel of Love, a campaign to bring boxes of newborn essentials to 2,000 Syrian women and their babies born into internally displaced camps. Each Parcel of Love includes warm clothing and blankets, bathing and healthcare items, and a packable bassinet for the baby to sleep in.

Wednesday: Speak out for Moms and Kids

Yesterday, the Trump administration announced a new policy that will separate immigrant children from their parents. Pursuant to this policy, border patrol officers will literally be taking babies from their mothers’ arms. Jeff Sessions, who announced the policy, justified it by saying that the new policy will discourage undocumented immigrants; entering the country illegally is illegal, goes his reasoning, and therefore the parents should not be shielded from prosecution simply because they entered our country with a child in tow.

First of all, this is cruelty in its basest form, and an embarrassment to our country. But second, it’s folly for Sessions and any other administration official to think of these undocumented immigrants as somehow having “a choice” – they are often in terrible situations where their lives are at risk in their home countries, requiring these families to take extreme measures (like illegal border crossings). It’s true that recently the number of women and children traveling hundreds of miles to come to a country that clearly does not want them has spiked … because these mothers are fleeing gangs that try to recruit or harm their children. But illegal crossings in total are not at an all-time high, contrary to the administration’s talking points. In fact, they are at historic lows.

This policy has essentially been in place since October, during which time 700 children (100 of whom are four years old or younger) have been separated from their parents.

What happens to those children when they are forcibly wrenched from their mothers’ arms? Great question. In fact, the Trump administration doesn’t know what happened to 1,475 migrant children who have been placed in foster homes. According to Time, “[t]he Health and Human Services Department has a limited budget to track the welfare of vulnerable unaccompanied minors, and realized that 1,475 children could not be found after making follow-up calls to check on their safety”.

So, to recap: the Trump administration has underfunded the agency charged with tracking the welfare of the children that it has separated from families – such that they have lost nearly 1,500 of them – but they’re going to double down on that terrible decision and make it official policy?

Feeling angry yet? Me too. So let’s call our Senators (both of them) and let them know that we see beyond the headlines.

Script: Hi, my name is ____ and I’m a constituent at ____. I’m calling to demand that Senator ____ tell DHS to end this cruel practice of separating families at the border. Not only is that practice inhumane, but it’s endangering the welfare of these children. When HHS followed up with migrant children who had been separated from their families and sent to foster care, they literally couldn’t find 1500 of them! That is outrageous! There should be an investigation into why these children are missing – not a new policy that encourages more families to be split apart and endangered. Why isn’t the Senator being an outspoken advocate for these vulnerable human lives?

Thursday: Tell Your Rep to Reject the Farm Bill

We talked last week about the Farm Bill, and the potential cuts to food assistance (the SNAP program) that are being proposed. The Farm Bill passed out of committee – and now it’s getting ready to be scheduled for a vote. So this week is a Farm Bill week of action, when a number of organizations will try to raise voices at the same time in order to bring attention to this issue. (You can head over here to the Center for American Progress’s thread for a succinct overview of the issues.)

Script for your Congress(wo)man:

Hi, my name is ___ and I’m a constituent at ____. I’m calling to ask the Congress(wo)man to vote against the Farm Bill in its current form. Next year, the top 1% will get over $84 billion in tax cuts, which is more than the cost of the entire SNAP program. Forty-nine GOP lawmakers stand to gain $14.1 million from just one provision of the tax cuts! That money could pay for 10 million meals through SNAP. I’m tired of seeing the GOP take from the poor to give to the rich. Please tell Congress(wo)man ___ to vote against this terrible bill.

Here are some tweets/facebook posts that you can use, courtesy of the folks at Center for American Progress.

Friday: Make Calls for Candidates!

With the ramp up to elections, there are a number of candidates that could use some help with calls. Head on over to Run for Something, where you can see a list of RFS’s endorsed candidates that are asking for some volunteer call time. And bookmark the page! The list continues to expand as new candidates are added.

Thank you for reading. Thank you for writing. I read and respond to every e-mail. (Really! I really do!) We’re in this together.

If you want one more quick action, make someone’s day and send this pep talk to a friend or two.

If you’d like to sign up to get this pep talk and action list in your in-box each week, you can do that here. Welcome, friend!

Lastly, if you’d like to support this work (thanks to those who have done so!), you can become a supporter here.



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