Paying It Backwards

I hear a lot about “paying it forward” or the idea that when someone does something nice for you, you should move along and do something nice for someone else. That’s an awesome way to spread good will and do good deeds. I strongly believe in doing random acts of kindness. You never know when you can make someone’s day with just a simple kindness. The world needs more of that.

But what about paying it backwards. Think back over your life. Think of all the people who helped you and helped make you the way you are today. There are the obvious people – your family, your parents, your friends. I hope that I have thanked all of them for all the love and support they have offered me in my life. They really helped me become the person I am today. The people I am talking about are the ones who didn’t know you and helped you or the people that passed out of your life. There have been complete strangers who have helped me when they didn’t have to and I never got a chance to thank them or return the favor.

I remember once when I had my first child – she was only like a year old. I had an old beat up car that I drove. I was driving from Virginia up to Pittsburgh and the car was having issues. I was on the side of the road, in the dark, with a young child. I had no clue what was going on with it. This was the days before cell phones. A trucker pulled over and got out. I was nervous as this tall dark man walked towards me. But he told me they called him the “Chocolate Snowman” as his handle. He looked at my car, fixed it, and then asked where I was going. When I said Pittsburgh, he said “so am I. Get in front of me and I’ll follow you in”. He did. He even pulled off with me when I had to make pit stops. He made sure I made it to the exit I needed safely. But I never got to thank him properly for making sure me and my daughter made it safe.

I also had an English teacher who taught me as much about myself as he did the subject. He was an amazing teacher who I absolutely couldn’t stand in school. As I got older I was able to appreciate not only what he did, but how he did it. He really changed my life. Unfortunately, when I had a chance to go back and thank him for what he did, he was gone. I was very disappointed that I never got a chance to go back and let him know that I finally got it. I understood what it was he was saying and doing, why he was such a jerk.

There have been many people in my life who have done small and big things to help me along the way. I have never gotten to return the favor. I sometimes wish I could pay it backwards, go back and do something nice for those people who helped me so much. But I have also learned that going back is often difficult or impossible. Maybe that’s because we aren’t suppose to go back. Maybe we are suppose to pay it forward and not backwards. I can only hope that somewhere in their lives someone did a great kindness to them that they were not expecting. Maybe that’s how the universe balances things out. I do know that all the stories of hate and anger and fear that I see these days, I sometimes stop and think of all the people who did a great kindness for me. It reminds me that there is a lot of people out there willing to do for others, help others, and lift others up. And often do it with no thought of payment or reward, because sometimes you just can’t pay it backwards.

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