When we’re fortunate in life, it can often be somewhat of a mixed blessing–we’re thankful, of course, that the pendulum has seemingly swung in our direction, but it often ignites feelings of unworthiness born out of our desire to give back. How can I do the same for others? Do I deserve good things in life when some people are much less fortunate? What if I have nothing to offer? If you’re feeling this way, know that it’s pretty common. If when receiving good fortune your mind automatically drifts to the well-being of others before yourself, you’re on the right track. The truth is, we all have something to give and even the little things we can do for others will go a long way. Paying it forward is about making the lives of others just a little bit better, and sometimes all that takes is a kind word or gesture–for others, it’s much more. Whatever it is you can do, do it.
There are literally hundreds, if not thousands, of ways you can pay it forward, but most of them can be broken down into four categories: donating, volunteering, being courteous and random acts of kindness.
Random Acts of Kindness
Not everything in life can be calculated and planned–we know by now to expect the unexpected. But just as we don’t know what the day will bring, we also don’t know how or when we’ll be able to offer a helping hand. Opportunities present themselves all the time, however, and there is never a shortage of things we can do to make life a little easier for others–when you find a way to make someone’s day better, it’s important to act on it.
Simple things, like giving a homeless person spare change or tipping a street performer, can not only help them out but make them feel worthy and included. If you’re paying for food at a drive-thru, offer to pay for the car behind you, too. Similarly, if you’re in a restaurant and you see a young couple dining with their children, offer to pay their bill anonymously. These acts of kindness are spontaneous but also selfless–you know the recipients won’t get an opportunity to thank you, but it’s not about the thanks, it’s simply about helping others.
Even if you don’t have money to offer, lending an ear or offering support or inspiration to someone in need can lead to a shift in perspective for both you and them. Offer whatever you have, because we all have something to give.
While not random, it’s certainly a generous act of kindness. Offering others some of what we have is selfless and, by extension, inclusive–it’s a thoughtful gesture and one that doesn’t go unnoticed. If you’re like most of us, you probably have a lot to give when you really take a look at things.
Clothing that no longer fits but is still in good condition can be donated back to the community in a number of ways: through Goodwill, for example, or places like Value Village, in which those donated clothes create a source of revenue for non-profits. Besides clothing, almost anything can be donated somewhere and there is always someone who can benefit.
Donations of money also go a long way, especially when it goes back into your own community and you have the chance to see the difference it makes. There are thousands of charities, though, and doing your research for a worthy cause will help you find one that speaks to you.
If you’re one who’d prefer not give money and instead donate what is being asked for, food banks generally have a list of their most desired items. A quick trip to the grocery store can result in mouths being fed and prevent children from going to bed hungry.
Finally, if you really want to give a part of yourself, donating blood is always necessary. Your blood, especially if it’s a rare type, can genuinely be the difference between life or death for those in need.
Volunteering is essentially donating, but instead of a monetary value, it’s your time–your time, however, can sometimes be even more valuable than money. Because non-profit charities don’t keep any money for themselves, paying workers is out of the question. That’s when volunteers step in. Doing your part and asking for nothing in return helps others receive the things they need. Be it helping at a food bank to ensure families have access to good food, to working a fundraiser to raise money for a special cause, volunteers are the backbone of each non-profit organization and the ones who get the work done.
Most volunteers don’t need any prior experience, either–almost anyone can do their part. Generally, organizations love to have as many feet on the ground as possible and each extra pair counts.
If you do happen to have a special skill, offer your services pro bono. If you have a trades job, donating your time and services can help immensely. While most organizations could use a helping hand in this area, they tend to go without if it means the money spent on wages can instead go to a family or individual in need. It doesn’t have to be your profession, either–if you’re an amateur musician but know of a fundraising concert or event, offer to play for free; if you have knowledge of graphic design, offering to help create a logo or poster for a charity can really make all the difference in raising awareness.
Paying it forward doesn’t require that you have any physical thing to give. Thankfully, we know just how much a kind gesture is worth, and the amount of times we can offer it is limitless. Being polite and courteous in your day-to-day life is something that benefits everyone, especially when we take into account how careless some people can be.
Simple, everyday things, like holding the door for others, letting drivers merge into traffic or helping someone carry their groceries can renew their faith in the common man. Many of us encounter the person who lets the door swing closed behind them or prevents a driver from merging if they think it will get them where their going quicker, and it can slowly chip away at our positive view of the world. Doing your part to be an upstanding citizen can make other’s lives a little better and hopefully help them see how small actions can create big change.
Being courteous, polite and accommodating doesn’t cost a thing but its ability to create good is undeniably valuable.
We all have the capacity for good and the ability to pay it forward. Though we’ve been told these acts are selfless, we really do get something out of the experience–it can be fun and fulfilling and it’s something you’ll find yourself doing more and more. The positivity it creates in ourselves and in others is a feeling that can’t be bought, try as some might. It’s unique and something that helps us feel connected and shows just how impactful we can be when we decide to be. You may not always get the chance to see the change you make, though. Everyone is fighting their own battle and a small gesture might change someone’s life in a way you won’t quite comprehend. But just because you can’t see the difference you make doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do it; it’s important to do every day. Pay it forward simply because you can–you never know who might need it.