Posts Tagged ‘pay it forward’

PostHeaderIcon Pay it forward

When I was travelling full-time my outlook on many things changed. One of those was the concept of kindness to others; you know, being kind and helpful to those around us whether we know them well or not. Whether we feel we have the time to spare or not.

The term random acts of kindness┬áis often used to describe what I’m talking about. Someone performing an act of kindness for no apparent reason, being kind for the sake of being kind. Perhaps it’s become a popular topic for discussion because so many of us feel the lack of it. I know I did but then I decided to go travelling alone.

I expected to spend a lot of time being wary of strangers. We’re taught that as children and in fact, wariness is not foolish but it is a problem if we close ourselves off from every stranger that approaches. I also expected to spend time alone while other pairs or groups of people shared their good times.

A sign on my 2nd day out of Australia - Japanese tea garden, San Francisco
A sign on my 2nd day out of Australia – Japanese tea garden, San Francisco

I knew I’d meet people but understood (or assumed) they might not want a stranger intruding on their space although I hoped I’d make new friends.

In spite of those misgivings, I knew I wanted to see the world so away I went. Off to discover the world AND, a lot of people performing random acts of kindness!

Before I continue I should let you know I’m not a cynic and often put more faith in the good nature of people than they can live up to. I am however, a realist most of the time and my expectations had come from living in the day-to-day world that we all find ourselves stuck in at times. The boring treadmill that has people doing the same thing from day to day and being too caught up in that to really see those around them and notice an “opportunity” for kindness.

It may feel bad to acknowledge it but we’ve all been there, impatience at the supermarket when someone is short of cash and must remove items, or maybe they’re slow at packing up because they’re trying to keep hold of a small child and pack groceries. How many of us have given that person the cash or helped them pack? The examples go on but you get the idea?

I don’t believe most of us are unkind, just busy and caught up in our own world. I saw it every day, so the first time someone approached me and offered kindness when I was out on my own, I was not only surprised but a little (to say the least) wary.

On my 2nd day away from Australia a man offered me his seat on a tram in San Francisco. When I replied he asked where my accent was from; when I told him he then proceeded to tell me about the city and what I “must” see. I thanked him for all the info and then was shocked and a little worried when he decided to get off with me and show me around! Although I kept insisting I was fine and that he must have things to do he spent 4hours wandering around with me and in the end wouldn’t even let me buy him a drink to say thanks. His explanation was I’d come so far he just wanted me to enjoy his city!

On a tram in San Fran with Israel - Day 2 & 1st random act of kindness
Israel; Day 2, 1st act of kindness

That experience was to be the first of many that were random not just in their occurrence but often also in that they were not simple things but acts that took people’s time, effort and often money.

I had strangers strike up conversations with me and then pay for my meals telling me they hoped that meant I could travel for longer, others showed me around, gave me rides to save fares and even invited me to stay in their homes – which I did and was treated like a family member. I was constantly amazed at how much effort people put into being kind for no reason other than, they are the type of people we all hope to meet.

Those are the people that changed my outlook and inspired me, many of them are now old friends. I now know there are people out there who will help a stranger and all the time I travelled I promised myself I would keep that lesson with me and pay it forward somehow. I hoped especially to do something unexpected for people travelling in a strange country as I know how much that meant to me and how in truth, those acts of kindness are what make my travels such fantastic experiences.

I’ve had a few opportunities to offer help to strangers – yes, even in the supermarket and today I had the opportunity to pay one of those travel kindnesses forward. Not only do I feel good, I also made a couple of new friends who I hope will be able to travel a little longer because someone was unexpectedly nice to strangers today.

Alexandra_Megan_NottingHillAug2011

My new travelling friends from Vegas

For inspiration;

Pay It Forward – the movie

Help Others.org

1,000,000 Acts of Kindness

The Kindness Offensive

Australian Kindness Movement

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