Embracing a ‘Pay It Forward’ Spirit

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If Jeremy and I could credit one thing for the reason we are so truly blessed on a day to day basis it would be that we have jointly adopted a ‘pay it forward’ spirit. It is not something that was 100% there as a shared life focus to begin with but was certainly something we naturally stepped up to as opportunities to help others came to our awareness. We have always had a spirit of generosity between us, something that we love and respect in each other, but it is something that we have honed over time in how it is expressed.

Paying it forward has made a massive difference to our lives, our friendships and our sense of community and here is just a few reasons why recommend embracing a ‘pay it forward’ spirit.

You are changing someone’s life for the better

The reality of paying into someone’s life is that we seek to do so in a manner that is for the better. For example, I recently purchased some cloth nappies for our baby on the way and the previous owner gave me the pop up basket that they had them stored in. I personally had no use for the basket and, beyond being a means to get the nappies safely home, I saw it as clutter.

Instead of trying to sell it or letting it congest my home, I placed a post on a local ‘pay it forward’ group. For the person who took possession of the basket it may have become a laundry hamper or a storage basket for a child’s soft toys. Who knows? But the point is that it was given with the expectation that it would be used in a means that improves someone’s life for the better. Small things like storage to lower frustration over household mess can make a huge difference in someone’s life. Believe me, I am a Mum!

You are giving yourself perspective

Sometimes when you are given the figures, comparing your circumstances to those of a third world or developing nation it can feel too far outside our understanding to truly appreciate. Looking closer to home sometimes is a better starting point to foster that appreciation. It is good for the soul, when we consider the challenges, stressors and life events that affect us, to be able to look at others and realise that what we are going through is small compared to what others face. It takes us out of our self-focused perspective and helps us look at our lives in a more global perspective.

I think that this is something that helped me significantly through the challenges of family court several years ago. It is certainly not the most joyful of experiences, not only is it stressful but it is emotionally strenuous as well. It is an experience that tests your emotional endurance as you face a process that takes a year or upwards to work through.

When I was going through this process, my true perspective grabber was in my role as a volunteer with SA Ambulance Service, a role I still have today. Being part of an emergency response crew, of any kind, I am sure has the same effect. In that role that we can look at the circumstances that we are called into and see that, perhaps, our life challenges are not as big as what others a facing. It was more than once that I would be caring for a patient in the back of an ambulance and I would look at their circumstance and be able to think to myself, “You know, they are having a worse day than me, ” and this was enough to keep my own life in check.

You never know the difference you are really making (unless someone speaks up)

I have a philosophy to ‘be kind always’. Now this doesn’t mean I am a doormat but it means that I try to act with kindness and respect even when I feel that someone has not provided me with the same courtesy. What choosing to be kind does is it calls you to try and see the other person’s perspective in a circumstance and to give you a picture of what an appropriate offer of assistance might look like.

A meal might help someone grasp a sense of health, a hamper of groceries may give a reprieve from the burden to shopping during a time of challenge or life transition, flowers and a card may let them know that they are not alone in the journey. Sometimes all someone in our community needs though is our time and a listening ear. And I will never forget this because I had a friend speak up once, years after the fact, about a difference I had made.

I was going through a stressful patch and a friend enquired about it. I was dismissive, explaining that the circumstance was challenging and too much to ask them to share the load of. Mate, did that friend set me straight. Over the 5 minutes that followed my friend explained how, after a quite significant accident resulting in spinal injury, that the time that I invested in listening to them changed their life forever. That the one day that I decided from a brief call that they needed a visitor, giving up my plans for part of the day to be with them, stopped them from taking their own life as they faced the despair of the chronically overwhelming pain they were experiencing coupled with their lack of hope for the future. Hearing this, years later, after they had rehabilitated to the best possible health outcome and were back at work, brought me to tears. You truly never know the difference ‘being kind always’ can make unless someone speaks up.

You are role modelling a life changing set of values.

When you help someone see their own abundance and your role modelling challenges them to pay their blessing forward you are giving them the chance to practise the expression of generosity and compassion in their lives. This opens their eyes to the sense of community that can be created through reciprocity and kindness. It benefits the giver as much as the recipient.

More recently, our children have been going through room upgrades. This has created a surplus of some household decor which has led us to asking our children where they think those items should go. It has challenged the children to think beyond themselves and to that of the welfare of others. This is a skill for life that we are pleased to have the opportunity to walk them through.

You are creating a sense of hope in your community

Most of us will have seen the quote ‘be the change you want to see in the world’. This quote is a call to action to create the society that you want not by legislating over others, but instead by modelling behaviours that you value. By paying forward the blessings of our lives we are seeding a sense of hope that this will be part of the future of our community.

We have been blessed by this process too. Not that we ever expected it. We have had the support we have needed to get us through some really, really tough times – practically and emotionally. The most obvious example has been the blessing of most all we have been given for the baby without anything being asked of us in return. Some people knew that we had cleared away all the baby items from the house years beforehand and reached out to us as they undertook a similar process in their own house. Others were complete strangers who listed items, some of significant value (at least to us anyway), on the pay it forward groups and we were the ones who drew to straw to collect it. It has been unbelievably practical and inspiring to be part of these sub-communities which are focused on the balance between giving over receiving at the same time.

Time to start paying it forward?

To start exploring the art of paying it forward start by looking for pay it forward and freebie groups online. You may also find that local community and parents groups run their own discussion threads specifically for things that are ‘free to good home’ or are acts of community assistance paid forward to others. If you start looking you will have no problems finding.

We will do our best to get word out of some that are local to us in the coming weeks as well, just to get you started.

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