Thursday, July 31, 2008

Pay It Forward

You may have seen the movie, starring Helen Hunt, Haley Joel Osment, and Kevin Spacey, about a little boy who practices (and preaches) the idea of "repaying good deeds not with payback, but with new good deeds done to three new people." 

There is tremendous satisfaction in helping others. I highly recommend that the next time you are feeling blue, go do something nice for someone, human or animal, even if it is someone you don’t know. Then go polish your halo and see how good you feel.

My neighbor and I were chatting the other night about our little street and the people who live here. Most of us are middle to lower income, self-employed or working in hard physical jobs. We have a backhoe operator, a landscaper, a house painter and a concrete contractor. I am self-employed, live alone, and work about four different jobs to make ends meet. I am a pet sitter, artist, writer, and web site designer (both freelance and part time for a company), along with a few other odds and ends that come up occasionally, like working for a private investigator and assisting a photographer friend when she is on a photo shoot.

The current economic problems have hit us all hard. But guess what? We are all in there, helping each other. During the fires last fall, I was in South Dakota visiting my ill father for the last time. My neighbors sprang into action. Julie and Dale loaded up my dogs and cats into their motor home and evacuated them. Rick and Robin hooked up my trailer and were ready to haul out the horses. After the huge windstorm, Alfredo cut up my fallen trees and hauled them away.

The hard times have helped us return to those old-fashioned values that movies from the 1940s glorified. Neighbors help neighbors, and strangers reach out to one another. Midwestern values that I see every time I visit South Dakota. My 86-year-old dad was having problems with his cell phone. His arthritic fingers couldn’t dial, and he would get confused. Jill, at the cell phone store, found a better phone, exchanged it with his for free, and programmed all his speed dial numbers for him. Then she typed up the list in big type, had it laminated, and delivered it to him at the nursing home. Not something you’ll see happen in Los Angeles very often? Think again...

When I was going through my divorce, I lived in an apartment and had nowhere to keep my horse or my dog. My friends Patty and Virginia stepped forward–one took the horse, one took the dog–and cared for them for months at no charge, until I was able to move into a house. They have earned lifetime free pet sitting from me, but in reality, it’s nothing compared to what they did for me when I needed it most.

Remember the emotion as we all pulled together after the terrorist attacks of 9/11? If fires, tornadoes or hurricanes have affected you, maybe you have experienced it; maybe you have hugged strangers, cried in each other’s arms, or even saved each other’s lives. 

You don’t have to wait for a disaster. I don’t know how I’ll ever repay the kindness that has been extended to me. Maybe I can’t. So if the opportunity arises, I’ll have to pay it forward, because my halo could use a little polishing too.  

1 comment:

RockArtist said...

Terry, your latest post brought up thoughts I often have about "helping" others. In my case an adult disabled son, much to the detriment of my own career and life, at times. I wonder sometimes if I will ever be able to accomplish anything "noble" with my life, other than what I'm doing now, when I have so many responsibilities.
When is "helping" not a good thing? When is it required of us as spiritual beings, having a human experience -- just the thing to do, no matter the cost, and not looking back for a reward. Maybe the reward is as you said, just dusting off your rusty halo and knowing that if you do the right thing, you can sleep better at night. The reward is not the goal. I wish our whole world would start thinking that way.