Jamie-Lynne Knighten spent maybe five minutes with Matthew Jackson, but their brief, remarkable encounter led to a social media movement to share his generous, yet, tragic legacy.
Knighten, an Ontario native who now makes her home in Carlsbad, Calif., met her everyday hero in a grocery store on Nov. 10. She was stuck in line with a crying baby and declining credit card when the young fitness trainer stepped forward and offered to pay her $200 tab.
When he offered a third time, Knighten realized he wasn’t just being polite.
“When he asked to take care of it as long as I would pay it forward, that’s when it hit me that he really meant it,” she said. “He really wanted to help.”
“It was like this big, giant bear hug which I really needed at that moment.”
Thanking him through grateful tears, Knighten asked his name and learned he worked at a nearby gym.
“I thought I would get to go in and see him at his work and bring him a gift or something,” she explains.
Days later, she called the gym to sing Jackson’s praises but instead learned some heartbreaking news.
Less than 24 hours after his gesture, Jackson was dead. He was killed and his two friends were injured when his car struck a tree.
“My heart was in my throat,” Knighten recalls. “It was so heartbreaking to hear that the human being who impacted me and my family was just gone. It was a shock, a complete and utter shock.”
“He just seemed like such a kind soul that I was excited to see him again, I was excited to say thank you and I didn’t get that chance.”
Instead, she’s determined to spread his memory and message. She initially just wrote about her experience on her own Facebook page but said her story touched a nerve among her own social network and the response was “just phenomenal.”
That response inspired her to spread the word on a larger scale.
She’s started a Facebook page and is using the hashtag #MatthewsLegacy on Twitter to honour his memory and encourage others to pay it forward.
She sees Matthew’s story as an all-too-rare example of positive news and role models that could inspire others, starting in her own home.
“This is what the world needs to hear this is what I want my kids to see. I want my kids to recognize that there are still really really good people out there.”
“I don’t want my kids to sit there and grow up in a world where celebrities are the main topic, about things that they do that really just don’t matter, yet this kind, young man can do something so impactful and had I not shared it, nobody would know about it.”
The message may be catching on; according to the Los Angeles Times, Jackson’s sister, husband and four kids were on the way to his memorial service when they stopped for dinner in Yuma, Ariz. When they went to pay the bill, they found someone else had already paid it for them.