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Paying it Forward

Smart guy, that Albert.

Am I the only one who finds that all too often my thoughts revolve around me, myself and I? Forgive me –surely I can’t be the only one. It’s way too easy to get caught up in the daily routine of things & focus on what I need to get done, where I need to go, what I want to do, etc. But honestly, that gets boring. Einstein is correct – It’s when I say “time out” to selfish thinking & think about doing something for someone else, showing love and kindness toward another person – it’s then that I feel truly alive. I don’t know about you, but I want to feel alive all the time.

I recently re-watched the movie, Pay It Forward (2000). If you haven’t seen that movie, you need to rent it. Or buy it. It’s really inspiring. Cute little Haley Joel Osment launches this massive, good-deed movement in his community simply by doing a small act of kindness for three different people & asking them to pass it on and do the same for three others. His three acts of kindness, including the first act of letting a homeless guy live in his garage, ignite a flame of good will while inspiring a spirit of selflessness in the recipients of the kindness. The movement spreads like wildfire throughout the city.

I know it’s just fiction, and at the risk of sounding cheesy and/or cliché, this story enlivens me to be a part of something big, to do something more – to live outside of myself, even if it’s just a small kindness toward someone else. It quickens me to think all sorts of “what if” questions. What if I gave away _____? What if I started a _____? What if I became _____? What if something I did, even something small, changed someone else’s day for the better? Or impacted the community around me in some way? Or what if it didn’t have a wild and wonderful domino effect like it does in the movies? It still feels good to do something for someone else, even if you know they can’t/won’t return the favor or pass it elsewhere.

What about you? I’ll bet you are already thinking of things you can do. Now, I’m not suggesting you invite a stranger off the street to take up residency in your garage or give up everything you have and move to a third world country to care for the sick. Mother Teresa said, “If you can’t feed a hundred people, then just feed one.”

Today, I want to look for my “one.” If I can’t feed a hundred, maybe my “one” can.

If you would also like to look for your “one” today, here are some ideas to get your creative juices flowing.

Simple Acts of Kindness:

  • Bake something and deliver it to a neighbor.

    Everyone loves having good neighbors. Why not be the kind of neighbor that you would like to have yourself?

  • Get rid of the clothes you don’t wear by giving them away.

    Maybe you have convinced yourself you will wear that jacket, skirt, scarf, etc. at some point, but you know probably never will. Give them to someone who will!  You can donate them to Goodwill, or a high school, or someone else who might want them.  I’m making a mental note to do this.

  • Wash someone else’s car.

    Maybe wash your own, too. 😉

  • Pay for a strangers meal at a restaurant or the person behind you in a drive-thru.

    I once paid for a lady and her kids’ meals at Subway. I was glad I pushed past my nerves and selfishness to do that because she responded by telling me that she was unsure how she was going to feed her children that day. (I’m not mentioning that story to try to come off as some sort of do-gooder. I’m just sayin’ you never know, you might be helping someone who really needs it).

  • Donate blood.

    If you don’t mind needles.

  • Show up at your friend’s house & make them breakfast.

    Okay. Maybe on a weekend. And maybe call first. But just know, if this person is a breakfast enthusiast, they will love you forever.

  • Volunteer somewhere or find a way to get involved in a local organization or charity.

    Back in high school, I used to call bingo numbers for my elderly neighbors in an Assisted Living Facility. In college, I spent some mornings delivering food to people through my local Meals on Wheels program. Volunteering can be a really eye-opening experience that makes you grateful for the things you often take for granted.

  • Pick up garbage around your neighborhood.

    No one wants to live in a landfill!

  • Write a letter of support to our troops or send financial support to missionaries.

    Check out & for more information

  • Give someone a break and offer a free night of babysitting.

    What? You want me to come over to your house, play with your kids, put them to bed, raid your fridge and watch your flat screen with cable TV? Best gig ever. Sign me up.

  • Mow your neighbor’s lawn.

    Or if you are like me and detest yard work, you could always send them flowers instead.

  • Participate in a walk (or run) for a good cause.

    You can Google upcoming walks in your city. But if you live in Central Florida, let me put the bug in your ear and plug the Orlando Walk to End Alzheimer’s. See ya there?

  • Befriend the lonely looking girl at lunch by sitting and talking with her.

    I met one of my longest and dearest friends this way.

  • Participate in a food/clothing/toy drive.

    Thanksgiving and Christmas are coming! Hooray!! There will be plenty of places to drop items off soon enough.

  • Host a dinner party or movie night, charge a $10 (or whatever) admission & send the proceeds to a charity.

    I’ve never done this. But hey, it’s a good idea.

  • Pass on a good, inspiring book to a friend with a little note inside.

    Hint, hint, friends. 😉

  • Offer your seat to someone who needs it.

    Especially pregnant ladies and anyone that looks older than you.

The possibilities and ideas are endless, people! Personally, I plan to take Einstein’s wise words to heart & start living outside of myself more.

What do you plan to do to pay it forward this holiday season? We’d love to hear your ideas!