We’ve all heard those “pay it forward” stories. A customer pulls up to the drive-thru window only to discover that the drink they ordered had already been paid for by the driver ahead of them.
Warmed by a stranger’s willingness to pay five extra dollars for their drink, the driver at the window decides to keep the generosity going and pays for the order of the car waiting behind them. And so on. The chain of generosity continues until its trending on Twitter and even those who didn’t stop at that particular Starbucks feel warmed and inspired to do small acts of kindness for others around them.
It’s a nice story. A pretty concrete example of how paying-it-forward can impact those around you. And I’d encourage you to do the same the next time (or every time!) you visit a drive-thru window.
But what if we routinely paid it forward in ways that made more of an impact than a free, five-dollar drink order? Acts of kindness that would not only generate those warm fuzzies but would also build, strengthen, and nurture our relationships?
The result would be awesome. The kind of awesome that would maybe make you want to do it all over again. And again. And again.
Below are 6 unique ways to routinely pay it forward throughout your week.
Offer Your Services for Free:
Do you have a talent, a skillset, or a particular “eye” for something that someone in your community might need?
It could be something as simple as offering your help and knack for party planning to your worried neighbor hosting her daughter’s graduation open house. Or maybe you could volunteer your small business to help fund a local children’s sports team. What do you do for a living? How might you offer that skill set to a person in need, free of charge?
Learn Something New:
One of the best ways to show how much you care and value another person is by purposefully making time to let them teach you something new. Celebrate their unique set of talents by humbling yourself and becoming a student of their trade.
Set up a time to actually learn how to make that famous chili recipe you’re always raving about, or ask them if they’d be willing to teach you how they got their kids to nap for longer than 10 minutes. Acknowledge the talents of those around you by learning from them.
Give as Much as You Save:
Certainly planning for the future is important, but placing so much focus on ourselves and our own financial gains can easily lead to selfishness and arrogance, whether we care to admit it or not.
Consider giving away as much as you save. Research a particular charity (check out these awesome organizations) and give, dollar for dollar, the same amount that you tuck away in your savings each month.
Think of it as a sort of “where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” kind of thing (Matt. 6:21).
Make Time to Listen:
Often times the easiest way to positively impact someone else is by simply making the time to listen to their stories: their fears, their excitements, their hopes. Our lives are incredibly busy, and it can be easy to ignore the trials and triumphs of those around us when we’re so caught up in our own worlds.
Consciously setting aside time to listen to a friend’s story—her nerves about the upcoming school year or his excitement about his new job—not only emphasizes that their stories are worth hearing but also tells them that they are worth your time.
And I can almost guarantee that there is someone in your life that deeply needs to feel like they are worth someone’s time.
Listening helps us foster necessary and important qualities within our relationships. Qualities like respect, compassion, and humility.
Since when did “sharing” become just a lesson we taught our kids so they wouldn’t be jerks during playdates? If Olivia has to share her most treasured toys with the neighbor kids, then I—her work-in-progress role model—definitely need to figure out ways I can model the sharing I want her to learn.
Share your home with someone who is stuck searching for a new place. Share your family with someone who may be lacking one. Regularly share your meals with people beyond your immediate family circle.
If sharing a Lego can warm the heart of a four-year-old, who knows what sharing your next dinner with the new neighbors down the street might do…
We all know the difference between a “thank you” that is genuine and a “thank you” that is hurried, careless, backhanded, or unappreciative. So be genuine with your gratitude. Be heartfelt, as corny as that may sound. If you have to, write thank-you notes to people for things they’ve done for you or have given you, whether they be material or nonmaterial things.
We all want to feel appreciated, so spread the gratitude around.
Spoiler alert: you might even find yourself becoming a more thankful person.
Pay it forward this week! Try a few (or all!) of these out. Make one of them a habit and see what happens. The ripple effect of your actions may not always be as immediate as, say, watching the car in the drive-thru behind you…but there will be an effect. Only, of course, if you choose to act.