My friend, Brent, told me an interesting story this morning.
Like most people who need that morning pick-me-up, you most likely wait anxiously for that sometimes bitter… sometimes cavity-breeding sweet, dark, hot, liquid crack.
When you see the barista pour the steamy (or frozen) concoction, it does something magical to your senses. It has a way of instantly waking you up and making you want to jump on a table and say, “I’m alive! I’m awake! And I’m ready to take on the world!”
For those of us who don’t indulge in coffee (such as myself), you’ll just have to pretend you know what it feels like to be falsely awake — it’s akin to being able to breathe with no air. And yes, I just channeled some Jordin Sparks for those of you who didn’t catch the reference. Haha.
Imagine for a second, that the person ahead of you wasn’t able to pay for their morning jolt. What would you do? Would you laugh? Would you ignore the situation? While I’d like to have complete faith in my fellow man, I feel that our society has become driven by self-motivated interests. We fail to look at the bigger picture. Our perspectives have, in a way, been blown out of proportion. These macro-size ideals overlook the details… the little things. For people like Brent, taking a more micro-size approach to a situation can prove to create the biggest impact.
You see, while the woman ran to her car to get cash (her card was declined), Brent moved into action and paid it forward. He selflessly gave of himself to help someone else without expecting anything in return. As a matter of fact, the exchange was so quick, that upon reentry into the store, Brent had already paid for the coffee, left the Starbucks, and the woman had no idea! And who says chivalry is dead?! :-)
Paying it forward is a simple concept. I had no prior knowledge of it until I saw the movie as part of Resident Assistant Appreciation Week. As part of the many things the university did for us, they treated us to a free, off-campus movie — Pay It Forward. While I don’t think it was a box office hit, it delivered a powerful message.
What would happen if everyone paid it forward?
After Brent told me about his experience, it made me think about other related concepts. If you’re still not quite sure what it means to “pay it forward,” here’s a definition: The expression “pay it forward” is used to describe the concept of asking that a good turn be repaid by having it done to others instead.
During my year of service with City Year, we “put our idealism to work.” It’s a pretty profound slogan, and I didn’t quite understand its meaning then, but now… I totally get it. Among the many topics taught to us, we learned about “Ubuntu.” I’ve posted a few explanations/definitions of this concept below.
"Ubuntu is an ethic or humanist philosophy focusing on people’s allegiances and relations with each other. The word has its origin in the Bantu languages of southern Africa. Ubuntu is seen as a classical African concept."
Archbishop Desmond Tutu further explained Ubuntu as follows (2008): "One of the sayings in our country is Ubuntu – the essence of being human. Ubuntu speaks particularly about the fact that you can’t exist as a human being in isolation. It speaks about our interconnectedness. You can’t be human all by yourself, and when you have this quality – Ubuntu – you are known for your generosity."
And to sum it all up: we’re all connected through humanity, and through that my humanity is tied to yours.
The other is the concept of “ripples.” In 1966 Robert F. Kennedy delivered his “Day of Affirmation Address” in Capetown, South Africa. Excerpting from it, he stated:
“Thousands of Peace Corps volunteers are making a difference in isolated villages and city slums in dozens of countries. Thousands of unknown men and women in Europe resisted the occupation of the Nazis and many died, but all added to the ultimate strength and freedom of their countries.
It is from numberless diverse acts of courage and belief that human history is shaped. Each time a man stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope, and crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring those ripples build a current which can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance.”
Going back to Brent’s experience, whether he realized it or not, he created a tiny ripple. Hopefully, that woman will recognize the generosity of a complete stranger and emulate his actions for another complete stranger, and that stranger will then help another… and so on and so on…
A few months ago, I challenged myself to pay it forward every day for an entire month. I met my challenge, but I oftentimes wonder about the number of ripples I’ve created during my time here on Earth. I wonder how much impact they’ve had, or if I’ve unknowingly created a ripple that eventually became a wave.
I wonder what would happen if everyone paid it forward…
Submitted by Anonymous
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