Friday, September 09, 2005

Pay it forward

About 20 years ago, when I was a starving student (yikes! has it REALLY been that long?), I received an incredible gift. Some people who barely knew me gave me $500. Why? They didn’t know how badly I needed the money at the time, but because they believed in education and felt compelled to share what they had been blessed with, they extended their generosity to me. The money was mine to keep and use as I saw fit. It wasn’t a loan – they didn’t want it back. Their only stipulation was that some day, when I felt financially able to, I would extend the same generosity to someone else in need.

I’ve been “paying it forward” ever since. Now and then, when I (or I should say “we” since Marcel and I are a team now) have an opportunity and the means to extend some measure of generosity, I do so, always with the memory of that gift to me in my mind. The first time, I sent an underprivileged child of a friend of my Mother’s to camp. Other times, we’ve slipped $100 bills into the mailbox of someone we know who needs a hand up at the time. We almost always do it anonymously, but we usually include a note encouraging the people to pay it forward. It’s a lot of fun that way, and it saves the people the embarrassment of having to acknowledge their need and show appreciation.

One of my favourite times was when my brother and sister-in-law had a substantial repair bill on their van that they weren’t sure how they could pay. We sent the money to the mechanic and asked him to keep our secret when they came to pick up the van. Unfortunately, my mother later spilled the beans and told them who’d done it, but it was fun being anonymous for awhile.

It’s become rather addictive, this anonymous goodwill. By now, I’ve far surpassed the original gift I received, but I’m not about to give up a good (not to mention FUN) habit. We have a little extra money right now, so we’re doing it again this weekend. But I’m not going to tell you who the recipient will be!

It occurred to me this morning that I really should write a letter to the people who gave me the original gift. I think they'd be happy to hear how much their generosity has multiplied in these 20 years.


Linda said...

We were celebrating our 25th wedding anniversary at a nice restaurant and when we asked for the bill, the server came back to us with dessert (which we hadn't ordered) and an announcement that our meal had been paid for. I started crying and almost got up to hug him until I realized that it wasn't him, it was someone else who had given us this amazing gift. That was one of the most wonderful gifts I have ever received and I can't wait to do it for someone else.

Judy said...

My husband lost his job a few years back, and a man from church showed up at our door with $500. He said he'd never lost a job (owns his own plumbing business) but figured it wasn't much fun. He told my husband the same thing. "Pay it back by helping someone else when you can."

We felt so blessed.

But, BEING the blessing feels even better!

Anvilcloud said...

When I was surviving my first strike, we received a few unexpected blessings. It was rather nice.

Dale said...

"We cannot accomplish great things, only small things with great Love."
-Mother Theresa