Helping Others and Paying it Forward

Despite its unnecessary ending, the movie/novel Pay it Forward had a beautiful message and I loved the concept. In case you haven’t seen it, a young boy is charged to come up with something that makes a difference to fix something in the world. “Pay it forward” is when he does 3 good deeds and asks each beneficiary to do 3 other good deeds, and so on, spreading positive influence geometrically throughout society. This isn’t a new concept – it’s been referenced in works of Benjamin Franklin, Ralph Waldo Emerson, and others over the centuries. In some cultures it might be called acts of Karma or Dharma or beschert or fate.

I am awestruck when it happens naturally – and today I’m taking a moment to recognize it. Perhaps it’s the kindness of a teacher which inspires a student to become an educator. Or the random act of kindness of a stranger in a parking lot, which leads the helpee to feel there’s hope in caring for a family member with dementia.

I work in a business that is constantly facing challenges – illness/disease, insufficient reimbursement, stigma, complex relationship dynamics – and I love it. Sometimes people see me as “their angel” when all I’m doing is my job (see earlier posts on why I do what I do). And sometimes, unbeknownst to me, it’s Paying it Forward!

A resident family member just stopped by to chat. She’s lovely – I advocated for her dad years ago; that’s when they started calling me “their angel” and now mom is here as a resident. The daughter, who struggled with her own personal tragedies, is now a terrific volunteer with our Hospice agency. All I can think of is the balance in the universe. That family member didn’t set out to “pay back” our organization. She felt a calling and is comfortable now with end of life issues. She knows first hand how warm, genuine care provides more comfort than can be described. And she knows that not everyone can give it – but she can! And I’m thinking of how many others she will inspire to pay it forward.

Lynn, if you’re reading this – you amaze me.  Thank you for being YOU.

To everyone else, remember that kindness is contagious. When I studied to be a Certified Laughter Leader with the World Laughter Tour ( I learned that functional MRIs prove kindness is good for the brain. When one person does a kindness, his/her brain lights up, and so does the brain of the person upon whom the kindness was bestowed; and when the kindness is witnessed by others, their brains light up too.  So pay it forward. If you cannot see examples of it easily in your life, be intentional and set out to do good deeds, and encourage others to as well.

I think we CAN change the world! We can make it a kinder place.

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