Paying It Forward
Detours in Life
When was the last time you did a good deed for someone?” I recently asked this of a friend. My friend thought for a minute and then described something over two weeks ago. Last year about this time my Pentecost series was about “making the ordinary extraordinary”. It was about making each day count. Most of us would love to have that happen except … Life takes us on a detour instead.
Last year I told you about Kim Atwood, a woman who focused on doing a good deed a day. In the year 2000 another woman named Catherine Ryan Hyde wrote a book upon which a movie was based entitled “Pay It Forward”. Kim took this same premise and put it into action. “One morning, on my drive to work, I was thinking about the law of moral causation and the karmic energy that surrounded my life.”
Kim was not just interested in doing a good deed but it that deed having a ripple effect. She encouraged her friends to follow her example as well as the strangers who were the recipients of her actions. The first day she stopped at her favorite donut shop for a pastry and coffee and then bought the same for the person in line behind her, asking the clerk to tell said person what had been done. The next day she bought a potted plant and left it with a note on a car in a parking lot. On another day she ordered some pet products from www.totallyfreestuff.com and donated them to a local animal shelter. Soon life closed in on her and it was bedtime one evening when she realized she had not accomplished her good deed that day. She went online and in five minutes had donated a few dollars to a charity.
The point of sharing with you Kim’s story was that she turned her ordinary commute into a period of retrospection and then took action. She made each day extraordinary for the beneficiaries of her actions. Kim was not some millionaire and often her actions took only a few extra minutes. One day she simply stood at a store and held the day open for people sharing a smile and a brief greeting for a few minutes. Each smile was returned and as she finished her shopping, she saw others holding the day for those entering. Kim create her own detour from her normal pattern and started finding a way to make each day count. She was doing for others but discovered it took her on a trip of her own as well.
Behavior is contagious. That is why gangs are successful and cults have a following. Kim Atwood used her time wisely and her detour from her normal routine made positive behavior contagious. The ripple effect of her actions created more extraordinary moments for more living things.
Joni Averill is a columnist with the Bangor Daily News and she wrote about Kim in 2010. “ Civility. Manners. Thoughtfulness. Understanding. Compassion. Respect. Tolerance. Our society seems to be losing its grip on those essential virtues. What a much nicer world it would be if we all made the attempt, daily, to be kinder to one another.”
Bangor, Maine is a town that is often the last US stop for soldiers going to the Middle East. Those arriving and departing usually deplane as new planes are to be boarded, different connections made. Each soldier is greeted as they enter the Bangor Airport by citizens of Bangor and usually handed a cup of hot coffee or a cool drink. They all receive a smile and hero’s greeting, justly deserved and earned. These humble residents, however, are also heroes. They make an exhausting trip better and remind our brave men and women why they are doing what they do. Regardless of the weather or the time of day, each plane is met, each servicemen thanked.
Steve Jobs once said “If you are working at something exciting that you really care about, you don’t have to be pushed; the vision pulls you.” Hopefully, today something extraordinary will pull you to action, something that benefits another person and makes their ordinary day a time of extraordinary living.
We think of detours as nuisances but they can be a wonderful way of paying it forward. Yes it is scary to deviate from our normal and really, who thinks they have the time? Truth is, we have all time to take a detour of meaning and to pay it forward. We’ll end up helping ourselves as well as the world.