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I see kind people: The act of paying it forward

Updated on June 16, 2010

The money came out of the blue, held within a simple white note card with tiny pressed flowers imbedded on the front. It was an unexpected message from an old friend of my husband, thanking him for selflessly giving his stem cells, an alternative to giving actual bone marrow, to a stranger with cancer. Adam made his donation expecting nothing in return except to maybe someday meet this man, healthy and living his life with his family. But his selfless act amazingly inspired others into their own acts of kindness. It is a beautiful chain of which he is a link.

It was not a ton of money mind you. It was the point of it that touched us the most. She indicated we should “go on a date night out to dinner” with it. This friend, who shall remain nameless as I am sure she prefers, simply felt the need to pen a note of thanks, explaining the bill enclosed was “Karma retribution- a sign of gratitude from the universe.” She was thankful for being very financially successful and felt the need to reach out and pay it forward in a way she was capable of. How many people take the time to do that?

Adam and I looked at the note and the unfamiliar bill in amazement. I wiped away some tears of what I can only describe as amazed gratitude and slated it toward groceries. She did not know what her gift actually meant for us. That is the cool part. She had no idea how tough things had gotten for us financially, she did not know our worries. Rather, she did this just because she felt the urge to do so.

This path we chose is rich in everything that matters, but not in money. Having two little ones in pull-ups does not help. Having Lupus does not help. Having a degree and experience in the poorly paid and dying field of journalism certainly does not help.

Things may be discouraging at times but at least I have seen that random acts of kindness and giving still exist. My parents for example, don’t visit without sneaking in a package of pull-ups and jugs of juice for my children. They realize that I don’t want stupid useless gifts at Christmas so they can feel like the oh-so clever shopper. All I want is peace of mind for my family. They give one thing; grocery certificates that last us nearly two months. And honestly, I could not think of anything better. The gift that lifts my worry is the perfect gift.

Though we don’t often hear about random acts of kindness or people “paying it forward”, when we do it stands out as a shining example that we are all connected and maybe mankind isn’t so bad after all. Maybe. Of course, it has occurred to me that we would hear of this type of kindness more often if we all participated in the paying it forward process.

I have my own list of things I have done, things I have given, money I have slipped to someone too proud to ever ask. I have donated my time and my talents to projects so that someone might heal, have faith enough to keep going or simply find their smile. But this is not about patting my own back, so I will not. It is about the stories I hear of people inspired by things like my husband’s story to register on the National Bone Marrow Registry. It is about people who pay the toll for the car behind them. It is about not paying it back, but paying it forward…helping a stranger and not looking for anything in return.

A prime example is a recent news story from Concord, New Hampshire where a young expectant mother lost her wallet and the stranger who found it, a father of four, not only called and returned it, but he also put $150 in it. He included a note asking her to take care of her new family and later, to pay it forward. So after having her baby, she did just that, registering as a bone marrow donor to help save another man’s life from cancer.

Wow. This mother perhaps did not have the funds to pay it forward in any other way, but honestly, what better gift that the gift of life? How many of us would have not kept the chain going?

So I guess whether it is your time, your talents, or something more profound and amazing like giving away your stem cells or bone marrow, we all have ways we can pay it forward. So do it.

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