One of my very favorite movies is Pay It Forward. It is about a young middle school student challenged by his social studies teacher to develop and implement a plan to make the world a better place. The boy takes in a down and out homeless person and helps him get on his feet, making a huge impact on the quality of this young man’s life. He in turn is required to have a part in improving the lives of three other people in need, who are required to do the same, and so on. I love this story.
Throughout our lives, there are times when we are faced with the necessity of accepting help from other people. My biggest issue happens to be with transportation. Newly independent, I used to leave the house at 3:30 a.m. to walk the six and a half miles to the town where my ride to work lived. He insisted on coming to pick me up; I absolutely refused on the grounds that I could never impose on someone like that. So he felt guilty, and I felt exhausted.
Late one night years later, my husband and I were driving to visit a friend who lived in the middle of nowhere, and the battery on our car became so run down that we had no headlights to speak of. We were crawling along the pitch black and twisting road when a young couple came along and offered to guide us to our destination. It involved these people going 30 miles out of their way. They insisted, assuring us they had nothing better to do. Upon our arrival, they turned to go back from whence they came, and being quite broke, all we could do was to wish them the same good fortune one day. It was an amazing experience for all of us. Now, every time I have a chance to do something extraordinary for someone else, I think of those two kids.
It is not easy to accept help or a gift. Someone offers to help us do something we would not otherwise be able to do (physically, financially, or through any number of limitations) and we feel beholden to him or her to return the favor or gift. It is not necessary or expected in most cases. People are good; they want to help. Doing something for someone else feels good! And you will certainly have an opportunity to lend a hand to someone else down the line.
Setting an example by involving children in random acts of kindness has a powerful impact on the type of people they grow up to be. Children need to learn that doing for others is at least as gratifying as being the recipient of material things, They need see us doing things because it is the right thing to do, rather than because we expect something in return. Likewise, they need to learn not only that it is okay to ask for and accept help when it is needed, but how to do it as well.
We need more random acts of kindness in this world. If we are on the receiving end, we need to learn grace in acceptance, and remember the pleasure we derive from an opportunity to do the same.
RDW 05-26-07, revised 10-8-09