Pay It Backwards

Yes, you did read “Pay It Backwards” not Pay It Forward. Why would I write this? Let me explain.

During the course of my life up to now, there have been so many amazing individuals who have positively influenced me in great ways. At times I didn’t even realize the impact they had on me until months or years later. I suspect you have had such individuals in your lives as well. Time passes, and we somehow remember fondly those people but realize we may not have taken the time to thank them. I know that often it was not an intentional omission but we still feel we should have taken the time to thank them explicitly.

Well, it’s never too late. I say this, but I know that there are times when the people who influenced us, especially when we were younger, may no longer be part of our world. Perhaps their family members are, and even though the “thank you” may not be about them, it will be about someone they loved and cherished.

So think back on the people who have been part of your lives, and have left a positive trace on your heart. Perhaps it was that 10th grade teacher who went above and beyond to help you get through the class. Perhaps it was the friend with whom you’ve lost touch and who was there to help you through difficult times. Perhaps it was the family member who particularly shone and supported you or a coworker who was there when you needed help. Perhaps it was an old flame who, even though didn’t turn out to be your permanent partner, helped you grow into the person you are today.

Imagine the surprise if you received a letter or card (handwritten please, rather than email (just saying!)) letting you know what a great influence you were on you. Imagine your smile when you read the reasons why this person felt the need to thank you, so many months, years or even decades post your connection. Imagine how wonderful your day would be to know that your actions supported, helped and maybe even influenced someone enough for them to remember and celebrate YOU.

Now, think back on the top 3 or 5 people who have had the most influence on you. Are they still in your life today? If this is the case, this is an easy activity since you already are in contact with them. If not, there might just be some tricky imaginative searches you will need to do to find them. Don’t let this keep you from connecting with them – today it’s amazing how easy it can be to find someone. Think Facebook, google search, high school sites that invite alumni to register, blogs and other options.

I suggest that when you sit yourself down to write them a note, think of what exactly they did and how exactly their actions influenced you. A general “thank you” is good, but giving specific details will be even better. I have many individuals I could list in my life, and I try as often as possible to be very thankful in the moment. Looking back, I have often wished I could contact old teachers, supervisors, friends etc. I have vowed to try to connect with those from my past who have, knowingly or not, shaped who I am today.

I encourage you to consider doing the same – it’s never too late to be thankful.
Continue to “pay it forward” but don’t forget to “pay it backwards” as well.