Don’t wait for people to be friendly, show them how. ~Author Unknown
Recently, I read a little paragraph in a fellow blogger’s post about paying it forward and it made me smile. At a toll booth, he paid for his vehicle’s fee and the one behind him. This is something my husband and I did often years ago when we would cross the Golden Gate bridge several times a month. Not everytime, but often, we would pay our toll fee and that of the car behind us. That car would then approach the toll booth to find out that their fee has been paid.
It’s a fun thing to do once in a while. Sure, it costs a few dollars. But the thrill of doing something nice and completely unexpected for an unsuspecting perfect stranger, who will never know who was ahead in line and therefore will never know who to thank or give credit to, is a great way to remind others that there is still a world full of kindness and generosity out there.
TOLL BOOTH KARMA
Once, long after I first started paying it forward on the bridge, I experienced being on the receiving end of this practice. It felt incredible! I remember wanting to express gratitude, but my benefactor had sped off long before I found out I owed nothing. Anonymous but never forgotten. It got me wondering how many others commit this generous act on the bridge. And if it goes on on the bridge, where else can it be happening? Buses? Trains? Ferries? How far can we take this generosity?
I think the concept of paying it forward is so wonderful for a number of reasons:
1) It turns our focus away from ourselves. Instead of the usual thought pattern of “How can I benefit from this?” or “What’s in it for me?”, the question of the day is more like, “How can I create a little happiness for someone?” or “How can something I do let someone know, with no strings attached, that kindness is still present in others?”
2) It’s centered around giving rather than taking. I think taking is fine. Taking or receiving is what we do when someone gives us a gift. It’s certainly what drives most dreams — we go out and claim it, make it happen, both are forms of taking. But giving — the ability to give — is a gift unto itself.
3) It’s joyful both ways. Doing something nice for a perfect stranger can generate an unmatched feeling of pure joy. As well, being on the receiving end where you least expect to find kindness feels a lot like hot cocoa and a soft, warm blanket on a stormy day.
A LITTLE DREAMY
I think we all could use a little unexpected act of kindness once in a while. I certainly welcome it. It not only restores my faith in humanity but also leads me to believe that, with the right amount of effort and willingness, we can achieve harmony and (gasp!) peace. For the most part, at least.
For those who are skeptical, I pose these two questions to chew on:
2) Which is better, for everyone to have a piece of something, or for a small handful to have everything?
I think most people would say yes to the first question and pick the first option to the second question. Unless I’m competely out of touch.
Kindness, like a boomerang, always returns. ~Author Unknown
I have learned from experience that when we commit an act of kindness for others, for strangers, it’s only a matter of time before that kindness comes back to us. Being kind is a gift that gives both to the giver and the receiver. Call it “what goes around comes around”. I don’t even think we need to learn or listen to or engage in all this talk of universal laws and the law of cause and effect, the law of attraction, etc.
I propose something simpler and more direct: how about we see for ourselves through practice?
So, what little, simple acts of kindness can we do to pay it forward today?
- put a quarter in a meter, any meter, that’s about to expire
- leave a copy of a really great book you’ve read in a cafe for someone else to enjoy
- be nice to the customer service people who are trying to help you with your technological difficulties
- tip your restaurant server generously
- thank the cooks, waitstaff and bussers personally
- say something nice or funny or goofy to the toll booth attendant (like, “Don’t drive too fast, now” or “Glad to have encountered you today”, or something less hokey)
- forgive a driver directing road rage at you
- buy or pack a meal for a homeless person (or give him/her your to-go box from a restaurant)
- give a warm coat to a homeless person
- offer to do pro bono work on a project where your skills are needed
- mentor someone
- make a donation
- say a prayer or whisper a kind wish for someone
- compliment a stranger
- send a box of donuts or bagels or muffins to a construction site
- next time you leave a foreign country, give all or some of what’s left of your currency to someone who resides in that country
- next time you’re at the airport, offer to pull the bags belonging to a woman or a mother with child out of the conveyor belt
- praise generously
- give local tips (re: restaurants, sights, etc.) to a tourist
- show respect equally to all human beings
- put a tip in a street musician’s jar
- let someone cut in front of you at the grocery store
- tell a funny joke to a stranger
- give someone a chance to prove him or herself
- encourage someone to pursue their dream
- allow someone to let his or her light shine
- show support to an artist or writer or musician
- hold the door open for someone
- tip a cab driver generously
- teach a child something you wish you knew at that age
- smile at someone who’s sad
- smile at strangers
- offer sincere, kind words to someone who’s hurting
- visit a hospice and spend some time with a terminally ill patient
- volunteer at a battered women’s shelter
- spend some time with a senior citizen living alone
- give up your seat on a crowded bus or train or ferry
- inspire someone to be the best that they can be
- give someone the benefit of the doubt
- offer to babysit for a single mother
- offer the FedEx, UPS or DHL delivery person something to drink especially on a warm day
- help a pregnant lady
- sit and talk with a homeless person and learn their story
- loan something to someone and forget about it
- loan money on Kiva
- contribute to a friend’s child’s education fund
- give blood
- show respect to a soldier regardless of your pacifism
- donate to or volunteer for the Make-A-Wish Foundation
- replace an angry or bitter thought toward someone with a loving thought (or at least try)
WHERE CAN THIS LEAD?
Is experiencing a little unexpected kindness enough to turn us into believers that maybe, just maybe, there can be peace on earth? Maybe, maybe not.
If we’re capable of small acts of kindness, can we go bigger?
I make no guarantees but, I’d sure like to find out. Wouldn’t you?
Kindness is in our power, even when fondness is not. ~Samuel Johnson
Image by *Darinka*