Pay it forward?

27 Apr

The past few months have been really tough for Greg and I.  We’ve been struggling, barely keeping things together.  Sometimes, it would be very easy to get very depressed about it all.  But then, I stepped back and thought about what was going on.

It’s not that we have failed, but rather I see it as a lesson we needed to learn.  Maybe me more than Greg, to be honest.  It’s a lesson in humility.  I was arrogant and reluctant to let people help me, even after becoming disabled.  I kept on insisting I could do it on my own, even when it was becoming blatantly obvious that that was not a true statement.  Still, I refused to admit defeat and give in, accepting help.  It was hard to even ask Greg to help me when I couldn’t get dressed or undressed.  To let someone else see that I was struggling was unthinkable.

I thought I was better than that, it seems.  That’s a risky thing to do, because when you don’t learn your lessons, they just get harder.

That’s what the universe did to me, it seems.  I wasn’t getting the lesson with just the physical aspect, so they delivered a secondary version.  It’s like those Ladies of Fate looked down at me and frowned, saying she didn’t get it the first time, let’s hit her in the pocketbook this time!

And then they cackled.

Okay, so I have a wild imagination.  Even so, I am convinced that they did in fact cackle.

So the financial woes hit, and as we navigated those rapids on the river of life, apparently, I wasn’t learning fast enough to suit them.  So then, Greg has his heart attack.  While he could have died, he didn’t, for which we’re both very thankful.  But it scared me and scared me good, as well as put him in the hospital for a week, leaving me to cope on my own.

It was like watching a house of cards when a stiff breeze struck them.  It all began to fall apart for me.  Greg has no idea how fragile my world suddenly became–he missed those melt downs.  I had no idea how I would cope, with anything.  The stress was killing me.  The fear was paralyzing me.  All I had was a fragile thread of hope binding us to manage to get through this somehow.

And people helped me.  Some of it was financial, some of it was emotional, and some of it was very intangible.  Even the rude people who upset me and made me angry actually were helping me, because then I had at least anger to help keep a stiff spine and keep on going.  When Greg got out, we managed to find more help to get over those first weeks as we tried to figure out how on earth we were going to get by.  Family helped too.  It seemed to be strings of minor miracles coming together, creating a ladder that looks like we might actually survive it all after all.

And I learned.  At some point in our lives, we all need help.  This is important because if we fail to accept those times, we’re also depriving someone else of their own lesson.

Because at some point in our lives, we need to help others.  It might be a small thing, it might be a bigger thing, it might even be a huge thing.  It doesn’t matter what the size is, the whole point is that by helping someone else, we’re learning how to be a little less selfish and a little more giving.  Like the Grinch…our hearts can grow a size larger.

And then, at some other point in our lives, it’s time to pay that debt and pay it forward.  I’d already been in that position.  Long ago, on several occasions, total strangers helped me, for no reason at all.  I hadn’t asked for it, even though I really desperately needed help.  I did manage to accept it graciously and thankfully.  Since I don’t even know who they were, there is no possibility of ever paying them back for that help.

Or is there?

To me, it was a case of paying it forward.  Random acts of kindness to others doesn’t hurt.  It doesn’t even cost a lot usually.  It might take a bit of extra time, a bit of extra attention, a dash of true consideration…but that’s a small price to pay really.

Because you never know when you will be suddenly thrust into walking in their shoes for a day or longer.  You never know what life is going to dish out to you, and suddenly leave you in a position of desperation and loss of hope.

I know most people get on the bandwagon for donating time and money around the holidays.  That’s really nice.  The fact is, there are people in desperate situations every single day of the year.  Get up, go and do something.  It’s like making a deposit in  your karmic bank account–and you never know when you’ll need to make a withdrawal.  Finding a cause is great, but it doesn’t have to be something that well defined.  Maybe its giving a ride to a neighbor, buying a package of diapers for a young family, a box of groceries for an elderly person, or a donation to the local food bank.  Even something as simple as carrying in a trash can for an aging neighbor might do more than spare them the effort–it might restore their faith in humanity and make them feel like someone cares.

Make a difference, somehow, to someone.  Make someone’s day a little brighter, not so that they will like you or do something for you, but just to see them smile.  You might be really surprised at the side effects that it will have on  you.

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