How Instagram Helped Me Pay It Forward

By Rogan Smith |
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Six years ago, a perfect stranger opened his home to me. I never forgot it and vowed to one day pay it forward. This week, Instagram gave me that opportunity.

I have to give the backstory first so that you can understand just how God moves.

Years ago, I was attending an acting conservatory in New York for several months. The tuition was paid, my airline ticket was bought and I had money in hand. However, I couldn’t find a cheap apartment to save my life. New York is one of the most expensive cities in the world. Studio apartments could cost $1,300 or more. I couldn’t afford that.

I remember sharing my frustration with my mother, who then said she would reach out to a Bahamian man living in New York named Jerrell to see if he had any suggestions, seeing that he knew the lay of the land. She didn’t know him at all. He was a friend of her longtime girlfriend. She had connected with him very briefly when he came by her house to bring a gift from my mum’s friend. They had a quick conversation and then he left.

Days later, after he had returned to New York, she called him to thank him for going out of his way to bring her the gift. During the conversation, she explained that I was coming to New York for a few months and asked him if he had any tips on places I could live. He then asked her to put me on the phone.

While I told him my plans, he remained quiet and then out of the blue he said, “you could just stay here. No charge.” He had a one-bedroom condominium in Manhattan and said he worked two jobs and would rarely be home. At first, I was in shock. Then, I started thinking that he might be one of those Lifetime Movie killers who lures girls to the Big Apple and disposes of their bodies. But, he seemed very calm. I don’t know. We just connected.

He said he had an inflatable bed that he would use to sleep in the living room and I could have his bedroom. I know in the natural, this story seems so crazy. But, I really felt God wanted me to go. So, I did.

For the next several weeks, I would talk daily with my new friend and soon-to-be-roommate, getting a feel for his temperament and looking out for signs that he was crazy. I’m happy to report, he wasn’t. My mum’s girlfriend also vouched for him, as she had known him for years.

Weeks later, I was on a Delta plane headed to La Guardia. The first day I got in New York, I took a cab to his condo. As I pulled up, Jerrell was waiting outside to greet me. After exchanging pleasantries, he took me upstairs to show me the new digs. The place was beautiful, extremely spacious, decorated nicely and most importantly, immaculate. As we sat eating lunch, he told me that he would take me on the train the next day to show me how to get to the conservatory. He really showed me the ropes, remaining kind and respectful the entire way.

True to form, he was rarely home. He worked very long hours Monday to Saturday and on Sundays, he was in church for the best part of the day. So, I literally had the place to myself. That lasted for three months and I never forgot his generosity and kindness, even after all of these years.

I remember being so grateful for the opportunity and vowing to God that I would do the same for a stranger when given the chance.

Bahama Mama, Rogan Smith and the Jamaican Jewel, Danielle Heslop.

Paying It Forward

Several weeks ago, Ashley McDonough, a friend of mine who I met on Instagram reached out to me to let me know that her cousin, Danielle Heslop from Jamaica was about to visit Nassau. She said it was her cousin’s first time travelling alone and she wanted to make sure she was ok. She asked if I, and another blogger would look out for her. I didn’t hesitate. I love connecting with other Caribbean people.

You have to understand that this is major for me because I’m an introvert. People don’t believe me, but I clam up in social settings and hate meeting new people. But, I immediately remembered Jerrell’s generosity and my promise to God. So, I jumped at the chance.

Just as I did with Jerrell, I spent weeks chatting and texting with Danielle to get to know her. I immediately knew that we would click. She just had a great spirit, energy and was very down to earth. You’d think we had known each other for years. It was just familiar.

On Wednesday, when she arrived in Nassau, I picked her up from the airport, took her to her hotel to check her in and then she, my brother and I went out for lunch and a tour of the island. We chatted about her future career – she’s in med school and going to be a doctor, y’all and talked about life in Jamaica.

We have a whole slate of activities planned for the rest of her trip and I can’t wait.

This whole experience has taught me that sometimes you have to step outside of your box and meet new people. You also have to honour your word to God and be good to people, especially when others have been good to you.

Check out the pics and tell me what you think!

I can’t begin to tell you the strength it took to keep my leg up for this pose. LOL.
Danielle poses on the front porch of one of my favourite coffeehouses, Louis & Steen’s.
Danielle soaks up the sun in front of the ocean.
You send me swinging!

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4 Replies to “How Instagram Helped Me Pay It Forward”

  1. AMAZING Rogan! Well first of all, thank God things worked out in New York! Girl, thank God he was not crazy! God kept you! And you are right about keeping your word. God bless you for being there for this young lady who now needs your assistance.

    PS – So whatever happened to the acting?!!!

    1. Hi Hadassah! Thank you for taking the time to respond. Yes, thank God he was quite normal. God kept me. I had to keep my word.

      As for acting, I will pursue it. It’s one of my passions. I have one life to live and nothing is going to stop me from living it to the fullest.

      Thanks so much for stopping by!

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