I ran into an old friend today while shopping in Target. I’ve known Bren for many years and it seems the only time we have to catch up is in the middle of a store every few months. This is very unfortunate for my 13-year-old son, who always seems to be with me when I run into her.
When we worked together years ago, she included my family in something special that she does every year. It touched my heart that someone thought so much of me that they would go out of their way to put a smile on my children’s faces.
After my second battle with cancer, my coworkers at my new job stood so strongly behind me and reached out with help, that I was humbled by their support and love for me and the thought and care they showed my family. I got with a friend and decided to pay it forward using an idea that Bren and my coworkers started. We have so much fun with it every time and walk away with the greatest feeling and can’t wait to do it again. I want to make these random acts bigger by including the cancer center where I received my treatments and still go for appointments.
Whenever I do one of these things, I always think about Bren and how it all started with her. It seemed only natural that I would pay it forward by doing something for others...just because.
Sometimes our activities are on a large scale. Other times we do things as small a gift card or few dollars in a card and then leave it somewhere random for someone to find it hoping it puts a smile on their face. One time I hid and waited to see who would find the card. A young man who worked at the grocery store I shop at found it, looked inside and then looked around. I pretended to look at the oranges as he took it to the assistant manager. She involved the manager who finally gave him the okay to keep it. He put it in his back pocket and on every aisle I saw him, he was smiling and greeting customers. Just that easy to put a smile on a face. It’s no wonder why I’m hooked on paying it forward.
Today in the store, Bren and I stood talking for quite awhile. We swapped stories and then she floored me. She told me about people that were angry with her because she was no longer able to afford to continue to do her “project” on such a large scale. She had to make changes to her list and it was very hard to do because she didn’t want to leave anyone out. She told me of people who tried to take advantage of her kindness. She then told me of one person who had been cut from her list that sent her a letter with money enclosed and thanking her for including them for years she did. I don’t want to be seen, I don’t want to be acknowledged, I just want to pass on the smile.
After walking away today, I thought about how things changed over the years. I never questioned who was doing something special for my family. I never expect these special things and am surprised every time they do happen. When I do something for others, I don’t expect anything in return, but the return gift is the most wonderful and irreplaceable feeling. I thought about the smile that I saw on the young man’s face and a few that I’ve seen since then. I thought about the laughter, the surprise and the wonder and I know that the true gift that I receive is not the one that I look at with my family, but the one that my family and I will receive when we pass it on. Whether it’s a smile, a gift, someone paying for you in line or holding the door open for you, think about your reaction to it. Did you pass it on? Maybe it’s time you gave it a try.