Monday, November 30, 2009

Pay it Back by Paying It Forward

Have you received a helping hand lately? I'm not talking about somebody giving you money; although, that does count. My thoughts are headed more in the direction of someone stopping to help when you are broken down on the side of the road, a stranger's warm smile when you are having a bad day, a friend staying up all night with you to help ease your wounded heart and other things we take for granted.

Nobody has to extend an act of kindness to us. Where is it written that the people in this world are required to be nice to us? You won't find it. If you do, please let the world know so we can stop the horrific atrocities imposed on humans by other humans.

What we have here are good people who give us a little bit of themselves to make our day a little brighter, a little happier and a little easier. After all, we know life isn't easy. We all go through rough times. Some of those moments are longer than others, but we can move past them. It is always easier to move through the process when someone else appears and extends a hand.

This calls to mind the painful experience leading up to my divorce. The decision to move forward with the end of my marriage was overwhelming, and I was paralyzed. At that point in my life, I was always the people pleaser. Divorce is one of those tragedies that hurt so many people, I could not bring myself to do what I know had to be done. An unexpected friend joined me one day while I was sitting on the stairs outside my office. He gave me some advice that was the push I needed to make a final decision so I could stop dragging out the inevitable, which was only hurting those I loved. The wisdom he shared was just a phrase-one lone sentence, and it changed the course of several lives. As it turns out, those lives were all changed for the better. This friend didn't have to sit down with me. He certainly didn't have to provide a helping hand. Frankly, given the fact he was a friend of my current husband's, he probably shouldn't have gotten involved for even a moment. Once his words of wisdom were conveyed, he promptly got up, waved and headed off. We haven't spoken in years now, but I will always be grateful. He took a risk to help some friends. How many of us would have done the same? How many of us would take a little bit of risk on without expecting anything in return?

Once my decision was made to go through with the divorce, I was amazed at how many people stepped forward to spare a hug and give me a break when I had no place else to turn. None of these kind individuals wanted anything in return. They didn't gain anything by helping me. Their acts were inspired by basic human kindness.

The fact I was in no position to help them in any way to return the favors bothered me for a long time. Then it occurred to me that the best way to honor them was to provide a helping hand and perform acts of kindness for others. None of this had to cost money, which was a good thing since I was broke at the time. It came down to paying attention to people around me and jumping in when they needed a little help. From hugging friends down on their luck, offering bits of advice or coaching them to pursue something out of the ordinary that sparked positive changes, babysitting when some friends needed to get out and have some time alone and so many other things we all tend to take for granted. The more I gave, the more pleasure I received just seeing a person smile or get back up on their feet. To this day, I continue to be on the lookout for those small, almost insignificant moments and take action to help another.

I really didn't have a name for these general acts of kindness until I saw the movie PAY IT FORWARD. If you haven't seen this movie, I encourage you to take the time to watch it. Be sure you have a box of tissues nearby. The emotion in this movie builds and the climax in the end will make the tears flow when you witness the powerful impact one child had on the world around him and what he had to face. All to pay it forward.

If you have ever received an act of kindness, think about paying it forward. One thoughtful gesture can make a powerful impact on someone's life. You may never see it, but know that it happens. So always be on the lookout for those little opportunities to pay it forward. Do any of you have any experiences you'd like to share about acts of kindness and paying it forward? Please share them with us. You story may spark actions in others or give someone another idea on how to pay it forward.


Carol Burnside said...

Wonderful things happen when you pay it forward. Sometimes you just come away with a good feeling about yourself, other times you get a bonus. This is my 'bonus' story:

When my hubby was working on his doctorate, we were so poor it wasn't funny. I was stuck 24/7 with two toddlers and no money to do anything in a podunk town. Then I met a wonderful lady named Sandie who loved kids. She could see I occasionally needed a little time to recharge and would just pop up at my door and whisk the kids away for an afternoon, then invite us over to eat dinner with them. To me, she was an angel sent from above.

I never forgot Sandie's kindness and when I met a mom with 3 kids who needed to escape a really bad marriage, but couldn't afford to, I offered free babysitting so she could work. Her kids were the same age as mine and it worked out great. They became friends and we became friends. That was 20+ years ago and I still count her as one of my very best friends in the world.

Christine said...

Thanks for sharing! I like to pay it forward with words and encouragement. I try to notice little things around me (amazing what NOT talking on a cell phone in a grocery store will lead to). Last week, my bag girl handled my groceries two days in a row. She's very proud of her work, and she works hard. I told her on day 2 I was glad I got her again because she did such a good job and she was fast. She said I made her day and walked back to the store with a bounce in her step.

That made my day more.

EC Spurlock said...

It can be amazing how one small act can have such a big impact on the lives of all concerned.

When I was young there were not a lot of kids in my neighborhood so I spent a lot of time alone and was very shy. When I got to high school, I found myself lost in a sea of people and couldn't find anyone I knew to sit with at lunch. Another girl who didn't know anybody either but was more outgoing took me under her wing, and we became best friends throughout high school.

The next year I again found myself with nobody I knew at lunchtime. The only person I recognized was a girl from one of my classes who was also sitting by herself. She came from a disadvantaged background and had experienced a sensational family tragedy, so she was gossiped about a lot but nobody would talk to her. So, remembering my friend's kindness the year before, I gathered up my courage, sat down next to her and started talking. I sat with her every day for over a month before she had the courage and trust to start talking back. But we also became good friends from then on.

That act gave me the courage to step out, meet people and put myself forward in a way I had never done before and which has stood me in good stead ever since. The shy, tragic girl I persisted with gained the courage to leave home, go to a respected school, and eventually became personal assistant to a high-powered executive, dealing with people from all over the world. Just being accepted and respected by one person changed both our lives. I am still friends with both of these women and they have come through for me more times than I can count.

J Perry Stone said...

It seems everywhere I turn now, positive messages such as yours are waiting for me.

What you've just written is an example of paying it forward, Tammy, and now I will be more mindful of what I can do throughout this week.

Thanks so much.


Tammy Schubert said...


Thank you for sharing such a touching story. Helping with childcare is no small thing. You made a huge impact on this woman's life. I hope she made it out of her bad marriage and found happiness for herself and her children.


Thank you so much for sharing. I was one of those shy girls in high school. Having nobody to sit with at lunch time is terribly uncomfortable. I'm so glad you sat with her and make a new friend.


It is nice to know people like you are out there waiting to step in during someone's time of need.


I'm so glad you received something positive from this post. Enjoy your moments of paying it forward this week. Giving of ourselves is uplifting.

Dianna Love said...

Tammy - what a heart warming story and I agree with J that your message is a part of "paying it forward." Rather than share one of my stories, I'll pass along something I learned as a child from my mother, one of the most considerate and loving people I've ever known.
My mom would stop any place and time to help a child no matter what the circumstances were. Someone questioned her on this once (in front of me) and my mother's answer was, "If I help someone else's child maybe someone will help mine down the road." She only lived to 42, leaving five children, three still in school and I had just graduated.

I truly believe I survived as a teen living on my own because of help from strangers as a cosmic payback to her unlimited kindness to other children. I don't have children, but I've tried to follow her example whenever I can in hopes the payback will go to loved ones and friends in need of a helping hand.

Maxine Davis said...


I really enjoyed your post. I guess where I really noticed the 'helping hand' was when I would talk to my Mom long distance and she would mention someone held a door or took her grocery cart back for her. Since she could barely get around, it always made me feel good that someone helped her. I try to notice older people and help them. Makes me feel I'm thanking someone from the past.

Carol Burnside said...

Tammy, sorry about that. I guess I should have wrapped up my story with that part. :) Yes, my friend did escape her marriage and years later found happiness with someone new.

Susan May said...

I've had some many things done for me having four child and one so ill. People have stepped in often to help. People don't realize how much one little thing can matter in anothers life. I try to help, something as simple as opening a door for a mother with small children. I've been there done that and appreciated any help I could get.

Susan May said...

I've had some many things done for me having four child and one so ill. People have stepped in often to help. People don't realize how much one little thing can matter in anothers life. I try to help, something as simple as opening a door for a mother with small children. I've been there done that and appreciated any help I could get.

Marilyn Baron said...

Thank you for sharing your touching stories. My mother also is the kind of person who will help and does help anyone she can. I can learn from her example.

Here's one pay it forward story that happened to me.

My daughter and I were eating dinner at The Outback and having a lovely time. When I went to pay the bill, someone (I still don't know who it was) told the server he was so impressed by this beautiful mother daughter scene that he was inspired to pay our dinner bill. I tried to find the person or figure out who it was but the server said he had already left.

Marilyn Baron

Linsey Lanier said...

Tammy, what an uplifting post. I want to say that you have been a good friend and have given me a lot of encouragement and kindness during our years in GRW.

These stories are so touching, I don't know if mine can compare, but here goes. The other day, hubby and I were in a restaurant chain and noticed our waitress was working hard while her coworkers were carrying on and goofing off. She was obviously irritated by the situation, so when the bill came, though it was under ten, we tipped her five and told her we appreciated her hard work. I think it meant a lot to her.

I like to be kind to people in the food service industry. It's often a thankless job.


Tammy Schubert said...

What wonderful, touching stories. Thank you all for sharing.

Dianna, your mother was a wise woman. I'm so sorry she passed on so young. You have truly carried on her legacy by all the help you give everyone, especially when it comes to writers. On behalf of all of us, I thank you!!


I can relate to your story. My mother is getting older and having to deal with serious medical issues. It is such a relief to hear her talk about someone who helped her during the day. Aging is no fun, especially when it is coupled with medical issues. I hope people continue to reach out to your mom.


You have made a good point. One little thing can have a huge impact on anothers life. It is amazing how one tiny gesture, something we think is insignificant, can do so much.

This reminds me of a lady who was living in the domestic violence shelter when I worked there. She's one of the ones who made it. Anyway, she had been at a new job for about a month before we had a short chat. I believe this was the first job she has had in her adult life. When I asked her how things were going, she floored me. She was in awe of how nice people were being to her. One of her bosses opened a door for her, and it was like someone gave her the moon. She was very concerned about the next incident. Some of the clients she worked with invited her to lunch. Thinking nothing of it, she went and had a good time. She glowed telling me this because it was such a positive experience. What confused her is that someone else picked up the tab for her meal. I had to convince her that this was normal and nobody expected anything as a result of that. She was so overwhelmed. "Nobody has ever been so nice to me before." I couldn't help but tear up over this. The gestures she described to me are things that happen to me a lot, and I just didn't think about how special they are. She really opened my eyes.

Carol, thank you so much for the update. After all the work I have done for victims of domestic violence and hearing out so many bad marriages, I couldn't help but wonder about what happened to your friend. I'm so glad she has found happiness.


What a terrific gesture. There are so many wonderful people out there. I'm glad you encountered one. I love this story.


Yes, your story definitely counts for something. It's right up there with the rest of the stories being shared. Food service is a tough industry, and I feel for the wait staff. They don't get paid very much and have to deal with a lot of grumpy, not-so-nice characters, and then they get stiffed on the tip. What you did was defintely very special. You made that woman's day!

You are a good friend, Linnea. I look forward to more great times. M&M is pretty special, because it seems to be one of the only times we can sit down and just chat without getting distracted by everything else that is going on.

Everyone, thank you so much for sharing your stories. Each one of them is so uplifting.

Sandy Elzie said...


Fantastic post. I can't count the number of times people have helped me. BTW...look in the Bible for "rules" telling us to help those little things. "Do unto others as you would have them do to you." "Love your neighbor as yourself" and the list goes on and on.

My pay it forward happened to my daughter when she was 16. She and and friend had driven alone to San Francisco to shop...having only enough money left to fill her tank to get her home. When she missed her exit in the dark and ended up in the hills and almost out of gas (and out of money)they each tried to call parents...none of us were at home. A truck driver was filling his tanks and she asked him for ten dollars and his address so she could mail his money back. He gave her twenty, refused to give his address and told her to help someone "down the line". She's now 39 and has never forgotten and helps every chance she finds.


Debby Giusti said...

Loved your blog and the movie, Pay It Forward, which reminds me of GRW authors who helped me when I started on my writing journey. They were always willing to answer my questions and encouraged me in any number of ways. I will always be grateful for their support.

Tami Brothers said...

Oh man! I have chill bumps! Great post, Tammy. I love this kind of thing. I also love all the stories you've sparked. It makes me feel so much better about the world we live in.

I see things all the time. People giving and people being thankful. I alway try to look at the world in a 'glass is half full' type of way and I've been told that that attitude has lifted other people when they've been down. I don't know for certain, but I truly hope it does. This attitude is because of all the blessings and helping hands I've received over the years. I can't thank everyone enough for what they've done. This is one of the ways that I try.

Great post and comments, everyone!!! You have all definitely made my day!


Ana Aragón said...


What a great post, and thank you for sharing your story. Makes me glad to know you're my friend!

I've had several instances in my life where people took the time to come to my aid. A best friend about 20 years ago and her husband made our mortgage payment one month when my husband was out of work and we didn't know where it was going to come from. We did that for some friends who were going through a rough time a few years later.

I remember my very first GRW meeting when a member, Nancy Burns, came up to me and took me under her wing. It gave me the desire to work one year as the face at the front table so that I could greet visitors every month.

Thanks for reminding me!

Nicki Salcedo said...

I was in an accident when I was in junior high. No one was seriously hurt, but we were out of state and our bus overturned. Everyone had to climb out the emergency windows. When I climbed there were all these bystanders and a woman came up and gave me a hug. I wasn't crying or upset, and I don't even like hugs. But I really needed a hug in that moment. There is more good than bad in the world. All it took was a hug from a stranger for me to believe this.

Some of the people who have commented have done things for me when I've had rough times. A card or letter goes a long way to help someone feel better.

Tammy, I'm glad your friend stopped and talked to you that day. You've probably helped some one the same way without even knowing it. Thanks for sharing.

Darcy Crowder said...

Tammy -

I've been catching up on post reading because I've been off the blog all week -- so, so sorry about that. I just have to say this is one of the best posts of the year! Truely inspiring. Thanks. And I love the stories that everyone has shared.

One thing that stands out right now, is a time I was pumping gas and this elderly woman pulled up across from me and seemed to be having a difficult time figuring out how to pump hers. I offered to help and pumped her gas for her. It's what she said that stuck with me. She noted that both of my small children were in the car and when she thanked me she told me what a great example I was setting for my little ones. I hadn't even thought of that...but it pays to remember that our children are always watching, always learning from us. In the good times and the bad.