Paying it Forward, Jayden Style: Random Acts of Kindness in Honor of a Little Boy

When Salvation Army organizers sifted through donations from Midland, Michigan, on Dec. 4, they found something more than the typical handfuls of change and dollar bills: An engagement ring and a handwritten note.

The ring was a Marquise-cut diamond in a gold setting, worth about $2,000. The note attached simply read: "Paying it Forward Jayden Style. God Bless."

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While a Salvation Army representative told Yahoo! Shine that they routinely finds gold coins, jewelry, and other valuables in their red kettles during the holidays -- a volunteer in Washington state found a white-gold diamond ring just last week -- this expensive donation was different. It was in honor of Jayden Lamb, who died at MidMichigan Medical Center on November 27 after a two-and-a-half-year battle with cancer. He was 8 years old, a third grader at Pine River Elementary School. He would have been 9 on Wednesday, Dec. 12. And all over the country, people are committing random acts of kindness in his memory.

"We were shocked and amazed that someone would do this," Jayden's father and stepmother, Tom and Nicole Lamb, told Yahoo! Shine in an interview. "We know that this ring, at one point, meant everything to someone. The fact that they would pay it forward with the ring is so amazing."

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After Jayden's death, the Lamb family coped with their grief by doing little things to help others.

"The 'Pay it Forward Jayden Style' movement actually started the day before the showings of his funeral when we were just getting coffee," the Lambs told Yahoo! Shine. "Not knowing the person behind us, we still felt compelled to buy their coffee. It was just a small way for us to say thank you to someone who has thanked us for sharing Jayden with them."

After his funeral on December 1, the family went to a local Wal-Mart and asked to pay off someone else's layaway bill. "We told the worker that it had to be for toys and that it had to be in honor of Jayden," they wrote on Facebook. "It is just so amazing to be able to do something for someone else."

And so the challenge began. The Lambs asked people to help others and document their good deeds on their Facebook page, "Keep On Truckin' Team Jayden" which they had launched in August so people could follow Jayden's progress.

"Even though we are still grieving with the loss of Jayden, this is helping us cope and heal," his dad and stepmom told Yahoo! Shine. "We feel so blessed that our community and those outside of our community would do something in Jayden's honor. To have his name and his legacy still be carried out even after he has gained his angel wings in Heaven is so amazing to us."

Friends, family, and members of the community responded immediately. "Keep on Truckin' Team Jayden" now has more than 24,000 fans, and is filled with dozens of stories about random acts of kindness and generosity.

"Saturday I had the pleasure of shopping with my daughters and a kind lady approached me in the checkout line. She handed me a gift card and a note: 'Pay it forward, keep on trucking team Jayden'," wrote Carrie Fike on Facebook. "I was touched to be part of this since I have heard so much about Jayden and his amazing family. Today, I also paid it forward. I hope Jayden can keep touching lives!"

"I finally got the chance to 'Pay it Forward Jayden style'," wrote Troy-Ciera Rill on Tuesday. "I was sitting in the drive through at McDonalds & bought a $10 gift card for the 2 guys in the car behind me. The girl at the drive through was touched & I loved seeing the expression on their faces when she gave it to them! Its such an inspiration that your son has put on people. God Bless & Merry Christmas!"

People have been paying for strangers' meals and gas, leaving huge tips for servers at restaurants and $100 donations for local charities. Local businesses held bake sales and toy drives for one of Jayden's favorite charities, Toys for Kids. The Christmas tree at Messiah Lutheran Church, where the Lambs worship, is being called "Jayden's Tree."

Tom Lamb says that his son would have been very happy.

"He is the most loving and caring child that I can ever imagine," he told Yahoo! Shine. "Jayden loved to be able to help other people."

The last conversation he had with his son showed Jayden's strength and inner peace.

"I was at work one night really feeling really sorry for Jayden," Lamb told Yahoo! Shine. "Some questions rose in my mind since I have the child in a wheelchair… Will he ever grow up and get his driver's license? Will anyone ever fall in love with him? Will he ever get married?"

"When I got home, I woke Jayden up for school," he continued. "After I woke him up, he looked me in the eye and said, 'Daddy, I am never going to get married.' My heart sunk. I don't have any idea of how he would have known what I was thinking, since I didn't reveal this to anyone. I asked him, 'Why would you say that, little buddy,' and he replied with, 'God needs me more. I was your angel before I was born'."

"Jayden was never the type of kid to complain," he added. "Even when we were stuck in the hospital for a week at St. Jude's getting chemotherapy treatments. He always smiled, because that's who he was."

The diamond ring that was slipped into the Salvation Army's collection will be auctioned off on Friday at Jenkins Custom Jewelry in the mall in Midland. A memorial fund has been set up in Jayden's name at Messiah Lutheran Church in Midland, Michigan; the fund will benefit families that have lost children under the age of 13 to cancer. The Lambs also encourage people to donate to the Make A Wish foundation.

But not all acts of kindness have to do with money. On Dec. 5, the Lamb family, including Jayden's sisters Faith, 12, and Jilliyn, 11, visited Poseyville Cemetery, where Jayden was laid to rest, to pick up litter.

"I think as any normal family would, we have our moments. It is hard to go each day and not feel that enormous hole in our hearts," the Lambs told Yahoo! Shine. "We often get choked up at the little things that we know he enjoyed or would enjoy. We have really grown very close as a family over the years that he battled cancer and honestly, we are all trying to hold each other up right now."

Nearly 2,000 people plan celebrate Jayden's 9th birthday on Dec. 12 with a Chinese lantern ceremony, where they will release the floating lights to "send a birthday party to Heaven." Jayden's classmates will be celebrating as well: "He is the student of the day," his parents wrote on Facebook. "They are planning to have cupcakes and share stories about their friend. We are invited to share pictures of him and tell stories as well."

The outpouring of good will isn't just about being caught up in the Christmas spirit. It's about celebrating the spirit of a brave child and helping others, and the Lambs hope that it will continue long after the holidays are over.

"We are so appreciative of everyone that they would do it in his honor," Tom Lamb told Yahoo! Shine. "We were fearful after he passed, that he would be forgotten. Knowing that this movement has started allows us to know that his name and who he is will not be forgotten. It has restored hope for us, and many people along the way."

"It doesn't take away the hurt," he said, "but it helps to heal."

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