Paying It Forward

The best way to help yourself is to focus on others and spread a bit of good.

I needed an attitude adjustment. 

I was overacting to everything and feeling sorry for myself about things that, when I thought about them, really didn’t matter. I was spending way too much time in negative territory. I needed to do something to knock myself in the head: bring myself back from the abyss I had been living in lately. I had much to be grateful for and I needed to stop feeling sorry for myself. 

So I decided to follow the example of one of my favorite books and "pay it forward."

I would do something just for the sake of making the world a better place. 

I was on my way to work and had stopped to buy my usual cup of coffee in the drive-up lane at McDonald’s.  I was trying to decide how I could put the “pay it forward” message to work as I advanced to the payment window. 

It was then that I decided I would “pay it forward” (or pay it backward!) anonymously. I wasn’t looking for accolades. I was just trying to pull myself back from the cliffs of self-absorption.

“Perfect,” I thought.  “I will pay for the order of the car behind me!”

I had no idea what that person had ordered, but it really didn’t matter. I was already feeling excited about doing this (payback #1)! I just wanted to do something unexpected that would hopefully start a chain of good feelings, that day. 

Now, it’s really important that I clarify myself here. 

I’m not trying to pat myself on the back for this act. As selfless acts go, this was pretty meager. I mean the person behind me had only ordered a cup of coffee and truthfully, I was reaching for that rope that would help me hoist myself out of the pity pit. My motivation, however, was honest.  I just wanted to do something good-to start the positive thoughts and feelings flowing for everyone.

 I handed the clerk my money and told him to pay for the order of the car behind me, also.

“Tell them that I said to have a good day,” I said. He looked at me quizzically and then broke out in a big smile (payback #2). “Sure!” he said, handing me my change. 

Part of me wanted to drive slowly and watch the reaction of the person behind me as they found out that their order had been paid by someone they didn’t even know. But that defeated my purpose. I remembered a sermon that my Pastor had just given that previous Sunday. He had talked about how you need to do things just because you wanted to help or wanted to do it and not look for the payback. I took my coffee from the clerk and kept driving. I had a great feeling and I couldn’t help but smile (payback #3). 

I had a pretty good day that day, and I ended it with a peaceful sigh. I felt like I had taken the first step back from focusing on myself too much. My step was a little lighter and I felt that the baggage I was carrying around was not as heavy (payback #4). That day, patience and compassion won out over impatient and judgmental. This is where I want to be.

I don’t know if I helped that person behind me have a good day. I don’t know if I started that chain of “good things happening’ that I wanted to start. No matter.  I hope I did and being a true believer in the Lord’s hand, I believe I did, but witnessing whether I did or not really isn’t the point. I did give that clerk at McDonald’s something to smile about and maybe helped him see his fellow man in a more positive way. Doing something positive did lighten my perception of “my baggage” if only for that day. That driver behind me did receive a free cup of coffee and hopefully broke out in the same smile the clerk at McDonald’s gave me.

Sending a little bit of sunshine out in the world will keep the flowers growing. I’m going to keep trying to be a part of the sunshine. It’s better than feeding the bats in the darkness.

(I’m hoping to continue the chain with this article. Here’s the information for the book I mentioned earlier: Pay It Forward by Catherine Ryan Hyde.  It’s also a movie if you don’t want to read. Cheers…literally!)

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Felicitas Cortez July 02, 2011 at 01:52 PM
Donna, thanks for giving me a plan of action for today. Love your blog!
Char July 02, 2011 at 02:05 PM
Great idea! I really enjoy your blog too!
Bonnie Hollaway July 02, 2011 at 03:24 PM
thanks for the reminder that WE can all do a little something to make it a better day for someone else as well as our self.


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