Home > Balance, Confessions, Life, Relationships > Re-Pay It Forward

Re-Pay It Forward

Do you ever have those moments in life that you wish you could do over and be a better you?  Here’s one of mine:

My cousin, Lisa, is like a sister to me.  I love her so much my heart wants to explode.  So naturally, when she was in labor I had to be there to support her.  I was stuck at work all day and couldn’t leave for the hospital when I first got the call.  When I got off work, before I started the 45 minute drive to her hospital, I stopped at the grocery store to get her flowers.  I was excited, I was nervous and I was in a hurry!!

As I stood in line to checkout, the woman in front of me had 4 cans of green beans, but there was something wrong with her form of payment.  They had to go get a manager, it took ‘forever’.  I am ashamed to say I was rolling my eyes and tapping my foot with impatience.

As she finished her transaction and walked away, I realized the problem was with her food stamps card.  I will never forget how horrible I felt.  Had I not been so absorbed in my life, and realized what was going on, I would have gladly paid for her green beans to expedite things or… I could have just been more patient.  That woman will never know that I wasn’t rolling my eyes at the form of payment and I can never make up my rudeness to her (something I will never forget).

But there is still a lesson to be learned and a way to create something positive out of my negative behavior.  I use that day to re-pay it forward.  You have likely heard of paying it forward, buying the next person’s coffee, paying the next driver’s toll fees.  I love those gestures, but also practice small acts of patience and kindness with strangers.  I need to make amends to a stranger for being rude, so I make sure to treat other strangers better. 

  • I wait patiently when someone is trying to park their car next to mine (it’s a big SUV and seems to intimidate people). 
  • I pull the lever so the next person has a paper towel in the airport restroom. 
  • I help people get their baggage up to the ticket counter.
  • Helping people who are lost (directionally – if they are lost in their lives, I probably would only hurt the situation).
  • Holding the elevator doors when you know the person is just around the corner even though you can’t see them and can get away with letting the doors close. 

Since I can’t ever apologize to that woman in the grocery store, I try to pass on other goodness that I hope will come back to her.

I also know there will be other moments when I am distracted, stressed or simply not being the best Paige I can be, so I re-pay it forward for those moments too.

How do you show kindness to strangers?

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  1. March 10, 2011 at 5:59 am

    Paige, Thanks so much for your positive post today! Just what I needed to read! I, too, have fallen victim to the eye rolling and impatience at times and your post was such a positive reminder of what really matters in the world! I have found that when I do a nice thing for someone unexpectedly it just makes the day so much better!!! Not just for them but for me, too, because it makes me aware that it is in those little gestures like holding an elevator or opening a door or picking up a toy a child has dropped on the store floor I have made a difference in someone’s life for just one moment in time. Pay it forward! Thanks for the reminder! Beth Ann

    • March 10, 2011 at 9:25 am

      Beth Ann, I agree with you, I do feel better about the world when I am doing nice things and it grows from there exponentially!

  2. March 10, 2011 at 6:10 am

    Not too long ago, I left work to have lunch with my wife. I sacrifice an early Monday morning to have some flexibility with my schedule in the latter part of the week, but I usually end up taking the better part of two hours between driving to pick something up, picking that something up, driving to my wife’s library, eating lunch, and then driving back to my office. People start to look at me funny if I’m out of the office for more than two hours over lunch.

    Anyway, I get onto the highway one day and things are just absolutely backed up. I realize that there’s no way I’m going to be able to time things just right so that I’m back in a reasonable amount of time, and I’m getting downright angry at the cause of whatever the hold-up was. After 10-15 minutes, I start moving again, and when I finally get to the Thai restaurant where I picked up my lunch, I hear a traffic report. There was a fatal crash. I was downright livid over being inconvenienced for ten minutes, yet someone that I didn’t know was dead . . . likely dozens of lives changed that day, and I was afraid of a sideways glance at work.

    I still hate traffic, and I know I’m not the world’s most patient person, but I always remember this when I’m forced to wait for something. The delay is likely much worse for somebody else, and even if it’s not, it’s not worth getting upset over.

    • March 10, 2011 at 9:26 am

      My husband teases me because I can tear up when I see a bad accident. I think about somebody is getting a phone call that they don’t want. You are right, as bad as traffic is, getting there safely is much more valuable than a few extra minutes. I am going ot have my husband read your comment – he is the most impatient driver, but still a great guy!

  3. March 10, 2011 at 6:41 am

    I think you’ve repaid that debt a 1000 times, but I suspect you’ll keep on paying it forward, which is both admirable and inspiring.

    Last week, my sister just told me she paid the 2.58 the man ahead of her was short at the grocery line. She said he looked like he did not live independently (or struggled if he did). She told me the cashier called over the manager and while they were discussing the “problem” like it wouldn’t go away, she just pulled out the money. She said the store workers were shocked.

    I like to think maybe they learned something. And now, because of you, I’m not going to jab the close button of the elevator maniacally when I hear footsteps.

    • March 10, 2011 at 9:28 am

      I love your sisters story. I have sometimes thought about doing this – after the fact. I want to be a good person, but I guess I have to start with being more observant and quick! 😉 I am watching for you in elevators now! 😉

  4. March 10, 2011 at 6:42 am

    I will admit, sometimes I am a bitch like that. But I like to think that I am polite and courteous enough to make up for not always paying it forward…things like when my son pushes the door open at the gym, I make him touch the wood only because someone has to clean his hand prints off the glass. Fingers crossed!

    • March 10, 2011 at 9:28 am

      Jamie – you make a great point, we could all do just a little bit to make someone else’s job easier!

  5. KLZ
    March 10, 2011 at 6:45 am

    I’m an adamant door holder. Although sometimes I think I take it too far and make people feel they have to rush…never a balance, eh?

    • March 10, 2011 at 9:30 am

      KLZ – You summed up my struggle yesterday! I was at the gym and there two gentlemen behind me, I was going to hold the door, but they were further back and talking so I didn’t wait, I felt like I would be rushing them. So I let it close on them? Hmmm… You’re right, even goodness can make us slightly off balance…

  6. March 10, 2011 at 6:54 am

    I’m a huge proponent of random acts of kindness so I love this post. I try a little every day – I smile at people even though I feel impatitent inside. I try to be polite and accomodating. I try every day, because you never know when you will need the kindness reapaid, or what someone else is going through behind the facade. During Lent at one time my goal was to complete one act of kindness every day. It was SO hard! Hardest thing I ever did. Just your awareness shows you are a wonderful person – trying hard is the best thing we can do. Great post!!

    • March 10, 2011 at 9:32 am

      Jennifer – what a great idea for Lent! My no sweets and booze is selfish. I should start binging again and just being nicer! 😉 In all seriousness, what a great goal!

  7. March 10, 2011 at 7:06 am

    First of all, it’s natural to have moments of impatience (like you did at the grocery store or on the road – as did John) and we all surrender to them. It’s the ability to look BACK and realize the self-centerdness, to recognize someone else was having a WORSE time, that separates us from the jerks of the day.

    Because some people? Never notice.

    Still. I always allow a mother with kids (usually squirming and miserable) to go ahead of me in a check-out line no matter how much stuff they have. My kids are old enough to stay home alone when I shop and it’s the greatest gift in the heavens.

    I pull carts out and then hand them off to people walking up – because who likes to squeeze down the cart corral to get one? Nobody. And I always return my cart – kind of annoyed by lazy people who won’t put the cart in the proper bin when it’s fifteen feet away.

    Are you THAT busy?

    I smile and say Hi to every single person I see while I’m out running or walking on the roads of my neighborhood – only about half do it back. Really? You see a smiling person saying HI and won’t make eye contact?

    Odd. I just shrug and figure that person must be awfully miserable. Or awkward. Or angry. And I’m not either of those things to that degree, so lucky me.

    I love this post, Paige. Sorry to ramble. I feel strongly about being kind.

    Even when I’m not.

    • March 10, 2011 at 9:33 am

      Julie – My name is Paige and I am the lazy cart person. I have a feeling your comment will stick with me. I’ll let you know what I do the next time I am at the grocery store…

  8. Sofluffy
    March 10, 2011 at 7:16 am

    I don’t need to be kind to people to prove something to myself, just knowing I could be if I wanted to, is good enough for me.

    • March 10, 2011 at 10:11 am

      A-ha! I wondered if that was you! For everyone else, Sofluffy is one of my best friends and an incredibly kind person. It turns out that she is also “anonymous” who posted the snarky comment the other day. (Which makes sense because she knew I adjusted my settings temporarily). So now that we know who you are, bring on the snark!

  9. March 10, 2011 at 9:11 am

    I am sometimes like that myself, but I always try to see the positive in every situation. I like that you gladly checked yourself and are now making amends. Ever since having a kid, I have learnt to practice patience because let’s be real, life is short.

    • March 10, 2011 at 10:13 am

      Blessing – Kids do teach us a lesson in patience, but they also eat that patience up! But you’re right, life is short.

  10. March 10, 2011 at 9:14 am

    I LOVE this post. I think we all have self obsorbed moments like that. It sucks to realize how these moments can affect other people. The thing that makes you different from most is that you REALIZE it, and try to be a better person after. Most wouldn’t do that. So, I love in an area where traffic is always horrible and people complain constantly. I never get upset at traffic…my way to re-pay it forward is to always let at least 1 person “zipper” in and merge. Or change lanes in from of me. And when I am forced to get in fromt of someone else, or someone lets me in I do a “thank-you” wave. It’s important to let people know that what they did was good 🙂 Also, smile at other drivers as you wave them in. Just be couteous, you know. Anywy…great post hun!

  11. March 10, 2011 at 10:38 am

    From reading through all of the comments, driving seems to be a big pit fall. I love that you play well with the other drivers AND you are friendly to those on the road!

  12. March 10, 2011 at 10:59 am

    I leave my strap at home when I go to Wal-Mart or anywhere comparable to Wal-Mart. Even worse – Ross. OMG. Anxiety attack central.

  13. Cailin
    March 10, 2011 at 1:16 pm

    Fantastic post! I think a simple smile can change someone’s day for the better. Also I think road rage is the dumbest thing ever, so I try to keep it positive on the road. I PROMISE you won’t get there faster by keeping someone from merging in front of you 😉

  14. March 10, 2011 at 1:26 pm

    Thanks so much for this much needed reminder Paige! I regularly put coins in expired meters for strangers but that is really not a big thing. I think I need more work on the eye-rolling, toe-tap area and your post has helped me alot! Have a good day1

  15. March 11, 2011 at 8:20 am

    Invariably, the times I let my frustration or anger out – it is totally and completely inappropriate.

    I hope I have learned a WEE bit.

  16. March 13, 2011 at 10:25 am

    Lovely post, and I do hope to be a few steps behind you in pursuit of an elevator some day!

  17. March 14, 2011 at 7:39 pm

    You are an inspiration to us all. By this account, I have a lot of growing to do. Outside of the “bless you” response to sneezes, I pick up clothes at retail stores. A start. Not nearly enough, I know.

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