Give Thanks by Paying it Forward
Have you heard Drew Dudley’s Ted Talk? I listened to it the other day. It reminded me of an incident when I was a first-year college student going for my associate degree at Oakton Community College. The class had just ended, and I was striding for the door when I felt a tap on my shoulder. I turned, and there stood my instructor, an unassuming, middle-aged man whose name I can’t even remember. He asked if I’d ever considered a bachelor’s degree, and suggested I visit a university.
At moments like these, the really pivotal ones, it seems like the herald angels ought to belt out a chorus, but they never do. It wasn’t until much later that I realized the auspicious nature of that tap — how my course in life had swerved as a result of it. Before then I didn’t aspire much beyond finishing each semester, much less finishing a bachelor’s and even going beyond. His confidence in me gave me confidence in myself.
That started me thinking about the entire jumble of human interactions we have in any given day. Isn’t it empowering to know that you could have that kind of impact on someone? Maybe without even knowing it? What if we consciously tried, even for just one day, to have a positive effect on the people we encounter — not just friends but random strangers.
Here Are Four Ways to Pay it Forward:
Pay a thoughtful compliment. Consider your children’s teachers, the cantor at church with the incredible voice, your hairdresser without whom you could never leave the house. Tell them exactly why they’re so good at their jobs.
Leave an anonymous gift. Your gift doesn’t have to be expensive. You might leave a plate of cookies for the maintenance guy, or a stuffed Hello Kitty for the little girl next door.
Have a smile contest. My daughter Maggie and I went to the mall the other day and decided to see which one of us could get the most shoppers to smile back at us. We didn’t get much shopping done, but we left feeling very refreshed.
Buy coffee for a stranger. This actually happened to me in the drive-through at Starbucks! When I got up to the window, the lady told me the person in front of me paid for my coffee. I spent the rest of the day high on humankind.
I’ve often wished I had some way to get in touch with that Oakton instructor and thank him for what he did for me. But I guess in a way that’s what this blog is about — saying thanks by paying it forward. My wish for you is that you too will find an opportunity to tap someone on the shoulder and pay it forward.
“Small acts, when multiplied by millions, can change the world.”
photo courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net/adamr