No act of kindness, however small, is ever wasted.
I usually rush through the day thinking about what I need to get done and consumed by all the stuff that weighs on my time and my brain. And yet, being aware of those around me and doing a simple act of kindness can change the trajectory of my, and possibly someone else’s, day.
I’ll never forget the time, at a camp reunion, when a former counselor told me a story I didn’t remember. She was cold one night, and I found her a blanket. Such a little thing, and yet, 15 years later, she remembered this as a significant act of kindness that impacted her. It really struck me that some of the little acts of kindness we do may be MUCH bigger than we think. We may not even remember them, but the act may be imprinted on the recipient.
And so, it’s important to be aware of the moments in our day when we have the opportunity to be kind. Life is such a rush. We all have a tight schedule. But how amazingly nice it is, when we’re worried we’ll be late to pick up our kids from school, when someone spontaneously lets us go in front of them at the supermarket check out line? Small, yes. But significant, YES! We pause and are so grateful and, for a moment, we feel connected to a stranger. Their kindness makes our day happier.
Just today, in an elevator at a hotel with notoriously slow elevators, a woman profusely thanked me simply for telling her we could fit her and her suitcase in our crowded elevator. It was nothing. But it was something. It made her feel good, and it made me feel even better.
Did you know that April 24 is “Pay it Forward” day? I didn’t know there even was a Pay it Forward day until recently, but now it’s on my calendar and something I’ll celebrate with gusto. I’ve even asked my fifth-grade son’s teacher if I can talk with his class about it that day. It’s a simple idea about spreading kindness.
The phrase “Pay it Forward” was coined in Catherine Ryan Hyde’s novel by the same name. She defined it as “an obligation to do three good deeds for others in response to a good deed that one receives. Such good deeds should accomplish things that the other person cannot accomplish on their own. In this way, the practice of helping one another can spread geometrically through society, at a ratio of three to one, creating a social movement with an impact of making the world a better place.”
Did you see the 2001 movie by the same name? It had a big impact on me, and I’m re-watching it this week in honor of Pay it Forward day.
For Pay it Forward day this year, why don’t you do a small (or big) act of kindness toward a stranger or friend? Instead of asking them to return a favor to you, ask them to “pay it forward” to someone else by doing another act of kindness. In this way, your single act of kindness can have an exponential ripple effect to many more people.
Who knows how you can change the world, or the life of one person, by your simple, small act of kindness?
It may be one of the most influential things you do in your life.
Happy “Pay it Forward” Day!
Pay it Forward Day Resources:
Pay it Forward Movement
Pay it Forward Day Website
Pay it Forward Day Resources for teachers and parents
The Positive Psychology of Kindness
Kindness and the Case for Altruism
Random Acts of Kindness Foundation
Five Ways to Raise Kind Children, Greater Good Science Center
Raising Happiness: 10 Simple Steps for more Joyful Kids and Happier Parents
Being Kind Makes Kids Happy
Fixing the Mean Girl Syndrome
Your Kindness is Good for You
Gold Arrow Camp
By Madelyn, a 2014 Camper
I love Gold Arrow Camp. I knew the minute I got on the bus for the very first time that I was going to learn a lot about myself, have a ton of fun and make lots of new friends. That first summer, I went with one of my best friends and we stayed for one week. It went by so fast and neither of us was ready for camp to end. We spent our days paddle boarding, horse back riding, kayaking, rock climbing and swimming. We spent our evenings around the campfire telling stories, making up songs and skits and eating s’mores… yumm. The counselors were amazing and all had nicknames that made me laugh. They were always there for us and kept us entertained and excited about camp life.
The second summer I stayed for two weeks. It was awesome! I had even more fun (with theme days, a later bedtime and a special BINGO night) and got to go on more outdoor adventures. My favorite was a 2-day camp-out on Shaver Island. There, we slept under the stars and spent the days on the lake riding wake boards, water skis and knee boards. We also did an overnight backpacking adventure where we cooked our meals over the campfire, explored a waterfall and swam in the lake. I have so many great memories from that trip!
This summer will be my third summer and I can’t wait to see Sunshine, Monkey, Kona and Rascal and all my fellow campers. It makes me so happy to think about camp. I love GAC and can’t wait to get my three year banner!!
Originally published in Fast Forward magazine, March 2014 issue