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.

When was the last time you whistled?

In honor of Happiness Happens month, I decided to revive a piece I wrote in 2009 about a very special person who was the inspiration for this story. I think of him now and then, and wonder if he is still whistling – somehow, I think he is!

bubble gum

This was a typical evening, long day at work, back at the apartment, dinner was finished and I was still working. I then remembered I had an early call in the morning but had noticed that the snack counter in my training room was low so time to replenish it. Given I had a 7 am call it seemed best to head to the nearby 24 hour grocery store.

I pulled into the parking lot, went in and spent about 15 minutes picking up my favorite boxes of 100 calories snack packages. I like to have snacks around, but healthy is a good approach! As I headed back to my car a driver pulled up beside me in a van. I started unloading my cart and he came around whistling happily. “Can I help you with your groceries” he asked with a smile. He stood about 5″10, mid thirties, dressed in blue jeans and a blue shirt with rolled up sleeves. He smiled constantly and as he walked over, he said “I’ll even take your cart so you don’t have to put it back” he said.

I looked at him and listening to him whistle. “Well, you seem like a happy person at 10 o’clock at night” I said to him.
“Well, I’m almost finished my shift” he said.
“OH – so you are happy you are almost done” I mentioned heading to my car.
“Oh no, I’m just happy” he said smiling.
“You must love your job” I asked a bit intrigued.
“Well, I’m kids’ dreams and parents’ nightmare” he said laughing.
At this point, I was both curious and a bit apprehensive.

“So, what kind of job do you do?” I asked.
“You’ll see in a moment” he said, opening the back door of his van.
He started pulling out gum ball machines – the type you see in grocery stores or department stores. He just kept pilling them up in my empty cart, and all this time smiling and whistling.
“I have a great job” he said, and a bit more seriously “I don’t make much money, but I get to sleep in as long as I want, I only start at 2. I get to work when the sun goes down, and here in San Antonio, that is a good thing. ”
“I meet lots of people, and it’s an easy job….”
He laughed and turned to me and said “I hope you like your job just as well; life is too short not to be happy!” and he smiled again, waved and wished me a good night.

I have to admit the entire encounter barely lasted about 5 minutes. Somehow, I knew this was one of those encounters that would touch me.
Here was someone who seemed to be one of the most joyful person I had ever seen.

To many, a job lugging candy and bubble gum machines to stores after stores could be seen as a boring job. Yet, to hear him whistle, and see him smile and listen to him speak gave me the feeling that he was likely the best in his role, in San Antonio, perhaps in Texas, maybe even in the U.S. of A.!

He took pride in what he did, he was happy and just seemingly content… and for a moment, I tried to remember the last time I saw someone so content and peaceful and joyous! – I’m still trying to remember…

It seems these days I have been really trying to determine what it is that makes me “whistle” – what makes me smile, even a few hours before ending my “shift” (if my shift really ever has an end..) I thought about those around me – when was the last time I hear someone hum, or whistle or just smile so big that we wonder what one must be thinking to be so happy…

Sometimes, life hands us these moments to make us reflect. We get caught up in the hustle, the rush, the stress, the urgency, the muti-tasking and we may not realize how much we get swept in the motion like being caught in a vortex. We don’t realize the pace we keep, the level of continued stress we accept as tolerable, the amount of moments when we need to take deep breaths to get clarity in the midst of chaos.

I stood by my car as i saw him make his way into the store; his cart overfilled with dispensing machines full of gums, toys and trinkets and as he made his way I could still hear him whistle and nod to those passing by.

One has to wonder, are we in a whistling mind set or are we so focused on everything else we don’t feel the joy of what we do, in a way that makes us sing, or hum or smile ?
When was the last time YOU WHISTLED?????