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On Thursday 26 April it is "Pay It Forward" day.
If you've never read the book or seen the film "Pay It Forward", it's about a kid who invents a simple way to make the world a better place.
It goes like this - help someone in need and ask for no payment - they just have to pay it forward by helping 3 other people and asking those 3 people each to do the same for 3 more people. And on it goes - saving the world, one good deed at a time.
It's a wonderful story (but with a tearjerker ending) and has inspired a movement in its name. Here's a taster of the film:
Every year the PIF foundation names a day to encourage us to help strangers in need; to help us connect with each other. Maybe we'll find out that the Dalai Lama is right after all when he says that everyone just wants to be happy and not suffer. That they're just like us.
Now no one's saying we should give our car away - maybe just hold open a door for someone, make a homeless person feel like they're not invisible, give someone a compliment, forgive a debt or buy someone a coffee or just share a smile with someone. Try to make someone's day.
Call it an investment in our present and future wellbeing; if we help someone today, we'll feel great right now. And the feeling stays with us. And with them. And with others who simply witness it. For ages.
For people we know, one of the very best things we can do, for their happiness and ours, is this:
The Gratitude Visit
1. Think of someone who has made a big difference in your life but whom you have never really thanked.
2. Write them a letter saying how they've helped you and the reasons that you're grateful and how you feel about them.
3. Contact that person and arrange to visit them (without explaining exactly why).
4. Visit and read them the letter. Face to face.
Yes, it's a little cheesy and it's not easy to do, but it can make the most wonderful difference to the lives of both parties.
I can imagine how I'd feel if someone did this for me. It's something I'd never forget. To feel like I'd made a positive difference to someone's life would be quite an astonishing gift to receive.
I admit that I haven't yet done this, but I did find my old primary school teacher on "friends reunited" recently. So I contacted him and just thanked him for being a great teacher and told him how he'd inspired me, one day at school, to take up chemistry as a career.
I remember the moment really clearly - I was 7 and sat in class. He asked us to put up our hands if we wanted a bag of carbon dioxide. We all put up our hands , although none of us had a clue what carbon dioxide was! He then took a paper bag and blew into it and gave it to the kid next to him. We were confused and amazed. He then proceeded to tell us about all the different gases the air we breathe was made of. I was absolutely hooked and gave up my idea of being a fossil-hunting, paleontologist right there and did indeed go on to get that chemistry degree.
And that "thank-you" I sent, made my old teacher's day!
But that's the sum total of my special thank you stories so far. Rather on the thin side, I'm afraid. But I plan to improve on this. I do have a doctor that I need to tell that I've forgiven him.................maybe one day I'll get around to it. Will keep you posted on progress......
Little "thank you"'s are really easy, but the big ones tend to get forgotten - maybe because they're so hard to verbalize - just TOO big, maybe? But we need to try anyway. If not, we'll likely regret it if we leave it too late.
And maybe next time we do a good turn, it could be for a complete stranger and the only reward we'll ask for is for them to pay it forward. Even if it's just to one person, it just might catch on.
And then, one day, a stranger could pay it forward right back to us. Just when we need it most.
What a world that would be......