As the holidays approach, many of us find a nostalgic bone that encourages us to pay it forward and spread a little kindness around. The atmosphere of giving a little more of yourself is one of the things that make the holiday season special.
But what about during the rest of the year? Is kindness as easy to come by? If you scroll online, social media or even listen to the news on a regular basis, it is easy to feel disheartened by the constant turn of negative events and general meanness that seems to exist in our selfish society. Most people are looking out for #1, and don’t seem to really care all that much about sharing general, small niceties among the general population.
In the popular movie based on the novel, ‘Pay it Forward,” a young boy does three small deeds for other people in need with the only expectation that the recipients continue the sport of paying it forward and do something (3 small acts) for someone else. The premise of course is that one small deed of kindness could start a ripple effect on society, and people would extend their hands and hearts to others.
So many people, think of giving back or paying it forward and get stuck thinking they don’t have enough of their own, to be able to give to someone else. The thing is that paying it forward isn’t just about leaving a waitress a $200 tip, or paying for the meal of the person behind you at a drive-thru. Paying it forward can come down to simple and heartfelt generosity.
Letting people know that they were helpful, telling someone that they look pretty, or saying thank you and meaning it are small gestures of kindness that can make a difference. Instead of complaining to a manager about a waitress, use your words to praise another person for a job well done. Choose to open a door for someone, or to return a cart to the portal at a grocery store for a mother shopping with children. Leaving a sweet card in the mailbox of an elderly neighbor, or for someone that may be having a rough time are other examples. Rather than pen an email to a company that let you down, use your time to pen an email to a company that provided upstanding service.
Far too often, we forget that our words and smiles, too can be used for good. If you happen across someone that seems to be having a rough day, a mother in a grocery store dealing with a toddler tantrum for instance, give a gentle pat on the shoulder – or say a kind word that lets her know she is not alone in this world rather than scowl or roll your eyes. A phone call to a family member or old friend, a thank you note out of the blue to your child’s teacher, a kind email to a local company, or a simple hug are easy and FREE ways to pay kindness forward. When you see a penny on tails, rather than pick it up – turn it over so that the next adult or child who finds it will feel as though it is their lucky day. If you see trash in a parking lot, rather than step over it and curse the person who left it, pick it up and put it in the trashcan.
The best part about making a decision to pay it forward and to spread a little kindness to others every day, is that it ends up making you feel better about the world. Mother Teresa said, “Let no one every come to you without leaving better and happier. Be the living example of Gods kindness. Kindness in your eyes, kindness in your face, kindness in your smile.” While we cannot control everything in this world, we can control how we make other people feel. We do have a choice how we react, how we treat other people, and whether we see the world as a self serve buffet, or an arena to spread kindness every chance we get.
Prominent psychologists and sociologists all agree that being kind to others, practicing small acts of kindness as a habit, has a soothing effect on the human soul. When we do for others, void of the expectation of getting something back – we plant a seed of love and kindness that will grow. Many ancient teachers and religions have believed for centuries that our lives are like an echo, and that whatever we give in this world, comes back to us.
Obviously, the only motivation for giving to others, for paying some kindness forward shouldn’t be selfish. We cannot walk around with a fake front of goodness hoping that we are creating some karmic cloud of sheer goodness and luck for ourselves. But we can make a concerted effort to, in every situation, find the kind solution, the kind answer – and act upon it. Not only will we be impacting other people’s lives positively, but we will also be able to go to bed at night knowing that we did what we could, what was within our own power, to make this world a happier place.
Tell us. What have you done to ‘pay it forward?’ Or how has your life been impacted by a random act of kindness?