Pay it forward. When you look it up it is described in legal-speak, apparently having origin in contractual law or something of the like. Or maybe you might think of the movie from 2000 when you hear the phrase. The movie was great (sad, but still good) and it generated a sort of pay it forward movement after its release. And maybe every so often you might hear the phrase used in social media. All good, but…
I’ve always tried to be a good person. Go out of my way to do things for others, help people when needed, and I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had others down on their luck in my home until they managed to get back on their feet again. Thankfully only one of those times did it bite us in the butt-robbed, house trashed, restraining orders…fun times. But still, each time we opened our doors we had good intentions and a full heart to help, and we could so we did. And we’ve done the same since said horrific experience too. Yay, kudos to me right? I’m not the point..
When my husband and I went through financial ruin 7 years back – thank you recession – we were overwhelmed with an outpouring of love and support. Not at all the only one, but definitely one of the most profound experiences of my life was during this time.
I was laid off in April of ’09. My husband was laid off 6 months prior to that. He was doing as many odds-and-ends jobs as he could find to keep us fed, but he was struck deathly ill just one month after I was laid off (literally 3 days after my health insurance ended) and was in ICU for over a week. He came home a month later to another month of full oxygen and many more months of recovery. It’s one heck of a story and one I am making note to tell here one day – because God saved my husband thank goodness, but the true miracle was that He saved my children through my husband’s illness, I promise you. Needless to say we lost everything we had by February of the next year and thus began a new chapter of our lives.
The pair of us were joined with the hundreds of thousands of others out of work and looking for jobs that were none to be had, since everyone was tightening the belt and holding on for dear life during this time. We managed to find a teeny tiny house in the same school district, bless the homeowner who took a leap of faith, and many character references, to let us rent there. We were so thankful and gave him zero cause to regret it! As Christmas neared, me still out of work and Adam working under the table as much as he could, we were stricken with the question of what on earth we were going to do about Santa. My kids were still quite young at this time.
I’ll never forget it…
My oldest daughter and I had volunteered to be in a community theater production of The Little Drummer Boy, mostly to keep her occupied and for me to find some spirit in the coming holidays. After the play one night I went into the lobby to see my family. With my husband and two other children was an entourage of people-consisting of my best friend and about 12 of my former colleagues (who were also my friends, of course). They gifted to me a white envelope. Inside was $1600 in cash and additional gift-cards for Christmas for my children. They had taken up a collection for me at my old company and raised this money. For me. For my family. So that my kids didn’t have to wonder why mommy and daddy took away all of their stuff AND Santa forgot them that year. When you’re 8,7, and 5 you can only compartmentalize so much…
A culmination of so many single acts of kindness were payed to me right then. It may have been monetary but it was kindness that lived in that envelope. To this day, and I hope for the rest of my days, I remember what that was. And I try to live with the intention of paying it forward in the same way it was paid to me that day. I’m not going to toot my horn and tell you all of the ways that I’ve lived that intention, what I have done since then or even what I did today. But I will tell you that small acts of kindness make more of an impact than you might possibly imagine. Don’t think about it in the abstract, “pay it forward” ho hum, nice concept and all.
Pay it forward. It is a verb, an action. There’s physics applied! Make no mistake, it reverberates. Your act of kindness does echo into the world and into the hearts of others two, three-plus fold.
So tomorrow, I hope you take just a moment to pay it forward. It doesn’t have to be monetary by no means! But do something for someone random today, just because you can. Revel in the way it makes you feel when you do. The warmth, the excitement from the reaction, the smile on your face because you made someone else smile too. And then think about how far your reach will be from that single action, because it will keep on going somehow.
Pay it forward every chance you get.