Sunday Soapbox: Pay It Forward

>> Sunday, September 20, 2009

*Steps on soapbox*

I watched some of my favorite show (which I have on DVD) earlier this week, Due South. It's a quirky little show about a Duddly Do-right that I absolutely adored. 'Cause he was gorgeous? No (though he was). I loved it because he was smart and because he was unfailing polite and principled. But more than that, he never failed to do a kind deed - and it worked for him.

I was also reading some reports on the after effects (and victim reports) from Hiroshima and Nagasaki and the thing that struck me, as the victims described their experiences decades later, was that each one had a story that included helping often several other people, but what they remembered, what they regretted, were those people they didn't help, the people calling, trapped in their houses, or holding dead babies. It was failing to take the opportunity to help, when they knew someone needed it, that bothered them as much as anything done to themselves.

And the thing is, everyone's needed help at some time or another. When I was struggling through an ugly and debilitatingly expensive divorce (pointlessly, I might add), I frequently felt at the end of my rope, but there were times when I was clueless where I could get the money to pay people involved in my divorce. I remember, right around Christmas, as I was struggling with that question - how to pay a social worker when I had nothing. I received, out of the blue, a money order for $660. No return address. Came from San Antonio where I knew no one. To this day, I have no idea where it came from, but it saved me when I needed it.

It was very hard to ask for help back then. I'd always been so self-sufficient, I didn't want to, hated how it made me feel. But, you know, I needed help and I'm grateful for the help I got. I learned how important it was to ask and to take it when help was offered. I'm a better person for that lesson.

So I try to pay it forward, try to help where I can. Sometimes it's doing something nice for someone, whether I know them well or not. Sometimes it's a friendly smile for someone who looks like they need it. Sometimes it's helping out with a little financial push. To date, none of this has ever cost me anything I couldn't spare without hardship, a little time, a little money, a little listening. I've never regretted it and I don't intend to stop. It doesn't pay my debt to the unknown benefactor I had, because I'm happy to do it. It pleases me to make someone feel relief, or a bit of sunshine when they were feeling down.

So, what's my point? A smile, holding the door open, helping a near stranger move - all of these things cost little but can make a huge difference. Perhaps no one's ever done something nice for you. Perhaps you've never needed it. But someday you might. Hopefully, you'll run into someone willing to pay it forward.

In the meantime, you know, it feels pretty good. You might find so yourself.

*Steps off soapbox*


  • Project Savior

    One of the big things I miss from when I was making 6 figures is that I could send money to charities, and if someone were ahead of me in the grocery line and their food stamp card was denied I could just say "hey, add it to my bill". I really wish I could still do that kind of thing.
    Other than the (false) sense of security, I really think that being able to help others is what I miss most.

  • Quadmama

    A few years ago Hubby and I were in the Drive Through at a Burger King. When we pulled up we found out the person in front of us had paid for our meal. We have no idea who it was, but that kind stranger certainly made us smile that day. Small gestures go along way.

  • Relax Max

    Well, hell, you could start being a little nicer to ME.

  • Stephanie B

    Oh, Max, with you I'm paying it back, not paying it forward.


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