Do you know the term “Pay it Forward”? Through the Life Skills Resource Group Facebook page, I follow a page called Paying it Forward ~ One Day at a Time. I always enjoy their posts – primarily stories of individuals paying it forward out in the real world. Sure, I had heard of paying it forward before, but I have to say, since I’ve been following that page I see much more paying it forward in the world – awesome things like people paying on the layaway accounts of others and people paying for the person behind them in the drive through (there was even a chain of 228 cars that paid for the person behind!). Big companies are even getting in the spirit: in response to the partial government shutdown, Starbucks encouraged people to come together in their communities by offering a free coffee to anyone who bought someone else their favorite drink. Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz was even quoted as saying, “It’s that simple – ‘pay it forward,’ and Starbucks will pay you back.” Pretty cool!
So, I’ve been more aware of paying it forward for a little while now. Recently I hit a moment where it occurred to me that I had an opportunity to pay it forward! I was on my way into a large lecture class and stopped to get a bottle of water out of the vending machine. Unfortunately, I didn’t have any cash on me, so I was trying to figure out which machine would take credit cards. At the same time, a member of my class I didn’t know was looking to see if any of the machines would take a $5 bill. We spoke about this and laughed at ourselves – wanting water, but not sure how to buy it. It turned out that one machine took credit cards and none took $5 bills. I very happily offered to buy her a water, and she accepted. It was a very small thing, but it made me feel good to be able to do something for someone else.
Shortly after, I had the opportunity to be a listening ear for a stranger. I listened for about an hour and left the conversation feeling glad that I had something to give that was useful, even if it was just an ear. I felt a human connection and was particularly glad to just have allowed another human being to be heard – to feel human and cared about.
The next day was a rough day for my family. I skipped class and headed to be with them. And, while with them, I experienced paying it forward from the other side. My family member ran into someone she knew, who listened to the story of the rough day, making her feel understood, and then surreptitiously paid for her dinner! The rough day was made much better – not just for her, but for all of us who heard about it. Paying it forward had a ripple effect!
With that appreciation in my heart, just two days later, my boyfriend and I ran into someone trying to jump his car that needed help. Not only were we (ok, he – I know nothing about cars!) able to help, but we had a nice conversation while jumping the car that definitely made me feel connected, useful, and pleased that people who want to help exist in the world.
This was a chain of events that probably happens all the time, but this time I really noticed it – I really consciously connected the things I gave, the things I received, and how it affected me and others. And I felt gratitude – gratitude for the many people in the world who are willing to give, for the opportunity to give, for the opportunity to do some self-healing that also helped someone else!
Maybe, like I did, you feel that you’re not sure you have something to give. Money might be tight or your stress level might be high. You might feel like you’re so tired that it is all you can do to keep yourself going. And yet, stretching to give to others might be just what you need to feel more whole. The best part is that giving doesn’t have to be monetary – you can also give your time, a smile, an encouraging word… and sometimes those things make a lot more difference than money. You definitely do have something to give (and you’ll find you get something back)!
Paying it forward makes the person paying feel good, useful, and human. If you’re that person, things are good! Paying it forward also makes the person being helped feel appreciative, special, acknowledged, and important. If you’re that person, things are good! Isn’t it amazing how it works?: help others, help yourself! But it is even better than that. People observing the pay it forward feel warm fuzzies, connected, and human too. And they might go on to help another – just by having observed a pay it forward! See, it is good for everyone! Now this is a cycle we could get used to!
Kindness matters. When we live with kindness, kindness also comes back to us. Suddenly we can see it everywhere. Suddenly we see opportunity to help where we previously might have gotten annoyed (maybe that person in front of you in line could use some help instead of a scoff). I think it makes us all a little more human and a little more compassionate. It definitely gives me hope.
How can you pay it forward today? How can you embrace kindness today? What are you missing? What do you have to give? I think you might be surprised how giving can help you find just what you were looking for!
If you’d like a partner in finding the kindness in your life, regaining hope, or maybe working on self-esteem and loving yourself, give us a call at Life Skills Resource Group Orlando at 407-355-7378. Our Orlando mental health counselors are excited to help you embrace yourself and others. Adult counseling, teen counseling, and child counseling are all available, including weekend appointments and evening appointments!
Pay it forward! ~Krista Bringley