Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Pay It Forward

This time of year often leads to a lot of self reflection for me. The time to reflect on what I can/did do to make a difference in the world. Have I touched someone's life and made it a little bit better for doing so? Will there be people that remember one random act of kindness I did and will it inspire them to do the same?

I am a blessed person. I have a wonderful family and a wonderful life. Sure, money's tight but in non monetary ways, my life is so rich. I have such special and treasured memories of my childhood. Memories that have sustained me through the rough times. Memories that I have in my mind and heart that I can take out and view whenever the going gets rough. I have a life filled with love. I feel it all around me in all the people I interact with.

There was one Christmas that always sticks out in my mind as my first instance of paying it forward. We had driven from New Hampshire to Rhode Island to celebrate Christmas with my huge family. As we were preparing to head home, we stopped at a small diner to have some desert. While we sat at our table, drinking our mugs of hot chocolate, and basking in the glow of a wonderful Christmas filled with love, family, and of course, presents, a grizzled old man came in. Heads turned to stare at him as he made his way to a table and sat down alone. I don't remember if he appeared homeless but he definitely appeared dejected and lonely on what should be a day filled with joy and happiness. He was unkempt and had a strange rash on his face. Patrons were staring at him as he slowly gripped his lone mug of coffee in both hands and kept his head down. I was staring too but not in disgust but in sadness. I remember thinking that noone would acknowledge this man because he was dirty. He was sullying up their Christmas night. As my family finished up and my parents were paying the bill, I walked over to this man and when he looked up at me, I told him I just wanted to wish him a Merry Christmas. His eyes shimmered with tears and his face lit up in a huge smile. Other patrons looked ashamed. He grabbed my hand and held it in both of his and wished me a Merry Christmas back. In his grip, I felt all the gratitude his face was showing that someone would acknowledge him, that someone would take the time to brighten his holidays. As we left, my mom turned to me and with tears in her eyes told me she was proud of me.

That is the Christmas memory I examine most often. Taking the joy I have in my heart at this time of year and passing it along. So, every year as the holidays approach, I ask myself, have I lived up to that memory this year? Sadly, the answer is often no as life becomes busy. This year, I'm asking any of you who read, take the time the next time you see the person on the street that makes you want to cross and think in your head, "I'm so lucky I'm not them" and acknowledge them. Don't let the minutiae of life stop you from making a difference to someone who appears to be out of hope.

You see, this morning there was a press conference with one of the critically injured surviving victims of our mall shooting. He talked about wanting to be a better person going forward. He talked with eloquence about the victims. It made me think of that memory. It made me wonder how people would remember me if I was gone. It made me want to be a better person.

I've been debating on writing this post for the last couple of weeks. The words wouldn't come out the way I wanted them until after that press conference so, even though its early - I send all of you who read the warmest and joyous Holiday wishes from our family to yours. Hopefully, through these writings, I've managed to touch your lives in the ways that those who's blogs I read, touch mine and inspire me. I promise to now step off my soap box and return back to your regularly scheduled juvenile humor.