10 Ways to Pay it Forward

It was a tough week. I had a flu/strep throat combo that kicked my butt and forced me to rearrange carpool, postpone important meetings and cancel previously scheduled play dates, leaving my kids stir-crazy and frustrated. My daughter was also sick and my house was a wreck, with laundry taking on a life of its own and dirty dishes piling up on the counter (no longer fitting in the sink). I couldn’t even make dinner, never mind actually meet a deadline. I was exhausted and overwhelmed and needed a sign that it would all be okay… or at least a life-preserver.

Then I saw it.

The envelope sat in my mailbox like many had before, with just a name — no address — evidence it had been dropped in and not actually mailed. I grabbed it along with the rest and tore it open as I walked up the driveway. Was it an invitation to something in the neighborhood? Maybe pictures from a recent party that someone dropped off? I didn’t give it much thought. But then I opened it. Inside, it said…

“Jackie takes care of everyone! Time to take care of Jackie!”

payitforwardAs I read the words, it was like time stood still. Could it be there’s someone out there who understands? Does she know about my never-ending list of things to do? My unpaid bills? Can she relate to the chaos that accompanies my feeble attempt at being a good working mom? Tears immediately filled my eyes. There was someone out there who “got” me.

Then I noticed another envelope inside. I tore it open with my thin, broken nails wondering what could be inside. There, with my name written in black ink at the top, was a gift certificate for a pedicure. I swear I heard my chipped toes giggle with excitement! But I couldn’t help wonder “why me?” I mean, come on, isn’t every mom’s life jam-packed with constant insanity? Am I such a mess that this person thought I, above all others, could use this pick-me-up?

And who is this anonymous do-gooder, making such a kind, thoughtful, supportive gesture without sharing her identity (at least I assumed it was a “her”)? My mind began to race, quickly making a list of possible benefactors. But I found most interesting while I was wracking my brain, was that I wasn’t puzzled over which of my girlfriends is that generous (I’m so lucky in the friend category), it’s that I just couldn’t figure out who would do it without adding her name to the card.

It made me wonder: how many of us could go above and beyond for someone else and be okay with not getting the credit?

While some queried said they often do kind things and don’t want anything in return, others admitted that one of the main reasons to do something nice is to let the recipient know you care and value their friendship, something that can’t be done anonymously.

Whether it’s out loud or in private, my experience with the secret Santa was a great motivator. In fact, I felt so good during the days that followed that surprise in my mailbox that I noticed myself needing to pay it forward as much as I could. And the more I did, the more I noticed it coming right back, not necessarily in gifts and grand gestures, but little random acts of kindness that can enhance an ordinary day. (Here’s a special shout out to the woman at Toys R Us who moved shopping carts when she saw I was trying to pull into a parking space!)

I never did find out who was responsible for the generosity that day. But I hope she’s reading this and knows that not only did she give me the gift of pretty nails, she inspired me to pass on her message and pay it forward, something I hope I can inspire in those who read this.

What’s one way you can pay it forward? Share in the comments!