Years back there was a movie called Pay it Forward. The concept was simple, do something nice for someone and instead of having them return the favor, tell them to pay it forward by doing something nice for others. The movie was good and except for a couple of overly sentimental scenes very enjoyable. It certainly delivered its message. Make the world a better place by passing on kindness.
Can you make the world a better place just by being nice?
I think you can. I think that people do it every day. Passing on small kindnesses of all types – from giving directions to giving a few bucks to somebody who’s hungry. In fact, without the small random acts of kindness that we give and receive every day, I think the world would be a much darker place.
Make no mistake, it won’t have the immediate impact that the release of the new iPhone has (although you’d think it should) but if we all did one more nice thing a day it would certainly improve our outlook – on ourselves and the world around us. What’s not to love in that idea?
How do I pay it forward?
I try to be nice to everybody. That doesn’t always work out. But I try. But my go-to way of paying it forward is with food. I love to cook. I love to cook too much. So I am constantly giving away food. Make a big pot of soup, I keep some, then give the rest to friends, co-workers and favorite merchants. Around the holidays I bake cookies and deliver them to the local post office, fire station, food banks, my mechanic, my co-workers, and friends. It’s not much but it brightens their day and mine.
A couple of weeks ago I went grocery shopping and I was stopped by a man who asked for a couple of dollars so he could buy a sandwich at Subway. He was middle-aged, dressed in clean but old clothes and had a nervous, flitting glance. In under two minutes he told me his life story – had a drug and alcohol problem, been clean for two years, living on disability but looking for work – most of his check went to rent. I gave him a few bucks. He thanked me profusely. I told him to pay it forward. That when he was on his feet, to help somebody else out. I don’t know why but I’ve thought about that guy every day since. I’ve wondered how he’s doing. I’ve wondered if he got his sandwich. I’ve wondered if he did something nice for somebody else lately. I wish him well and hope things are looking up for him.
A couple of months ago, a friend asked me to read his manuscript and give him feedback. He agreed to read my manuscript and give me feedback as well. I’ve done a lot of critiques, so to me it wasn’t that big a deal. I stayed up that night and read the whole thing – taking notes as I went. The next day I wrote up my critique and sent it off. Then I didn’t hear from him. It worried me. I feared I’d offended him. Then I just didn’t know. Finally, I let it go. I’d done what I could, sent it out in the world and I realized I didn’t need to know the fate of my action. Recently, I heard back from my friend (knock me over with a feather) and it was good news. He was pleased with the feedback and thanked me – also had some nice things to say about my work. I felt good. He felt good. Somewhere in the universe things were being paid forward or sideways or some way. It was a feel-good thing. And I thought that we should all do this more often.
How do you pay it forward?
So I’m wondering – how do you pay it forward? Or do you believe in such things? I know things have been rough for all of us in the last few years. The economy, the job situation, everything seems to get more and more expensive. Often, we’re working a lot harder for a lot less. It’s easy to feel cynical under those conditions. Easy to feel like people are trying to exploit what few resources you have by asking for a favor or some free advice.
But I believe that one of the biggest joys in life lies in helping other people. In big and small ways. Often the cost of brightening someone else’s day is very small and really can make a difference.
And isn’t that what we all want in our heart of hearts? To make a difference? Does it have to be a huge difference for it to count? Or can we just be happy in the knowledge that because of us, somebody had dinner today? Or because of us, a little girl laughed, or an elderly couple didn’t have to stand so long in line because you let them cut ahead of you?
My offer to pay it forward
So, in the spirit of this post I’d like to make an offer to pay it forward to you, out there, reading this post. I can’t offer you soup because it just doesn’t travel well in the virtual world but I can offer to do a manuscript critique. Short story, script, poem, or novel – doesn’t matter what type. I’d be happy to help anybody out there who’d like some honest feedback on their manuscript. Since I’m not a superhero I can make this offer to three people. So, if you’re interested in taking me up on it, leave a comment and let me know.
In the meantime, thanks for reading and may we all make the world a better place, one little random act of kindness at a time.
4 thoughts on “Paying it forward”
What an uplifting post. If only more people would “pay it forward” which, as you say, is really little more than being polite, kind, and helpful whenever an opportunity presents itself (or perhaps not waiting for an opportunity to present itself, but making the opportunity). I was taught to be that way all the time, with everyone, and only in recent years have become a bit more reserved in some situations, out of caution.
I think a lot of people pay it forward maybe even without realizing it? It was definitely part of my family ethic growing up and I’ve carried it with me throughout my life. I too, have shied away from it in recent years. Maybe because of all the crazy things that seem to be happening out there. But really if I think about it, no harm has ever come to me by being kind and helping people. So, it’s back on the list. 🙂
I was thinking of street people, which you mentioned. Sure, many of them really need help. But you hear so many stories about them taking your money and using it for booze or drugs instead of food, rent, etc. And I usually only see them in areas where I’m already driving with the windows up and the door locked.
Yeah, I can understand that. We have a lot of homeless in my area. Some I give wide birth to, others seem fine. I think you can get a sense of who might try to hurt you and who’s just down on their luck. But definitely, never approach anyone who makes you feel unsafe.