December 2020


December 20, 2020

“What you do makes a difference, and you have to decide what kind of difference you want to make.” – Jane Goodall

The global pandemic and all the political strife that has grown up around it have been the spark for rekindling our awareness of how interconnected we all truly are.  One of the most unexpected blessings of this very challenging year has been my increased awareness of how MANY people regularly go out of their way to be kind, generous and helpful….not just to their friends and neighbors, but also to complete strangers.

My annual Pay It Forward Challenge, where I ask my clients and blog readers to do at least one random act of kindness for someone during the Holiday Season, as a way of demonstrating our gratitude for our own blessings, has taken on special meaning for me this year.  I notice little acts of kindness every day by people all around me, in the grocery store, my neighborhood and Starbucks – everywhere I go.

The past several blogs have detailed many Pay It Forward acts of Gratitude-in-Action that my readers have shared with me so I can pass them along to you, in hopes they will inspire you to come up with your own personal ideas for “the kind of difference you want to make.”

As we wrap up the 2020 Pay It Forward Challenge with this blog, I wanted to share a few more stories, as well as the divine timing of an article I read just today in the Los Angeles Times about a Facebook Group that is dedicated to doing random acts of kindness (usually anonymously) year-round.  The group is called “Sparks of Kindness” and you can join it, as I just did.  The readers share their acts of kindness in the forum, giving each other ideas of small, fun, inexpensive ways they can make a difference in the world around them.

Since it was launched several years ago, Sparks of Kindness has grown to over 5,000 online members in about 40 countries, according to the founder, Debbie McFarland.  She is a photographer from Georgia who founded the group because she “found that there’s so many people that want to do good – they just don’t really know how to start.Sparks of Kindness has lists of ideas for “sparks,” or small acts people can do to brighten someone’s day and spread hope, love and joy around any time of the year.

Debbie launched the group several years ago, but interest has picked up a lot this year. “During this pandemic,” she says, “I think people are starting to realize that…every person you come into contact with is fighting some kind of battle, whether it’s appointments or unmet expectations of others or health or bullying….Everyone’s facing a battle, and if you can get one tiny spark to ignite hope within them, then it does something within them.”

Some ideas the Sparks of Kindness group members have shared are similar to what my blog readers have done, such as taking soup and biscuits to a sick mother, giving someone ahead in line $20 when his debit card didn’t go through and taking flowers to someone who could use cheering up.  Some very creative ones from other members that I particularly love include:

  • Leaving a ziplock bag of pennies next to a fountain with a note that said, “Take a penny. Make a wish! Hope your dreams come true!” 
  • Leaving a tin of cookies on the running board of an ambulance outside a nursing home with a note to the EMTs that said, “You’re AMAZING! Yes, You!”
  • Leaving snacks and water on the porch for the mail carrier and delivery drivers who are running around so fast right now, they rarely have time for a break.
  • Leaving notes in stores for others to find, such as “You’re beautiful just the way you are” in the cosmetics aisle or “This too, shall pass, hang in there” in the cold and flu remedy aisle.
  • My personal favorite listed in the L.A. Times article was someone who left a ziplock bag of quarters at the laundromat for anyone who needed change. It was a godsend for a young mother who put her toddler’s comforter in the washer, only to discover she didn’t have any money for the dryer.  After she went on the Sparks of Kindness Facebook page to post her thanks, a member bought her a new dryer.

Here are the final ones from our own Cup of Caroll readers, that are equally heartfelt gestures of generosity, love and kindness:

  • One of my clients who has really taken on the Pay It Forward Challenge in a big way just sent me this text: “I’m getting ready to deliver a homemade Mexican dinner with homemade Mexican chocolate sugar cookies to a friend and her family who’ve been quarantined;  Christmas Gifts for 2 Angel Tree kids who wouldn’t get presents otherwise; 3 products that a client wasn’t able to order due to them being out of stock (I had 3 extra for sample packets…he’s getting them at a discount!), and stopping by another friend’s place of business for his Christmas Customer Appreciation get-together. I feel very happy that I am making a difference in at least four families’ lives.  Oh, and one of the Angel Tree gifts I picked up, wrapped, and am delivering is for another friend who is totally swamped with her own business and family stuff going on.  It feels sooooo good to give!!”
  • A client told me about a kind deed she did for a long stretch of time after her direct sales upline leader’s loved one passed away. My client wrote her a short snail-mail note once a week for three months, simply expressing love and support and assuring her that she was not forgotten in her grief. The leader just recently replied with a note that said, “You will never know how much it meant to me.”
  • The teacher I wrote about in the last blog who taught her students about complete sentences by having them write three a day in their Gratitude Journals that start with “I am grateful for…” also had them write about “One thing I want to STOP doing after 2020 is…” and “One thing I want to START doing in 2021 is….”
  • Although we have plenty of money to buy presents, my wonderful husband Rick and I decided that this special Christmas, we will put that money toward worthy causes instead of stuff. We wrote Christmas cards to all our friends and family members, asking them to designate a charity they would like us to donate to in their name. They all loved the idea. In fact, I have never gotten such enthusiastic thanks for any gifts I have given them before!

As I said in the blog, a nice side benefit to the warmth you feel when you help someone else is that the Law of Attraction (“energy attracts like energy”) dictates that YOU will also be blessed whenever you do good for others.  True to form, I just received surprise gift card for our favorite supermarket from a friend and former client. The amount was exactly what I will be spending for our family’s Christmas feast that I recently ordered from there.

I send you and your loved ones heartfelt wishes for joy, health and prosperity for the rest of the Holidays and on into the New Year!  Next time, we will lay the groundwork for what needs to be emotionally and mentally completed for 2020 and begin to create a MUCH better 2021 for all of us!

PLEASE NOTE: The blog is taking the next week end off.  Merry Christmas and look for your next Cup of Caroll on Sunday January 3, 2021. 

*************** Give Yourself the Gift of Dreams Fulfilled! ******************

To schedule a F*R*E*E* “Jumpstart Your Success” 60 minute phone coaching session that will help clarify your Big Goals and get you into ACTION to make them a reality, please email me at caroll@practicalprosperitycoach.com.

December 13, 2020

“A person struggles.  You help.  A door needs to be open. You open it.  A piece of trash is in your path.  You pick it up and throw it away.  A child needs extra attention.  You give it. A job needs to be completed. You do it.  One more act of kindness a week will add 52 moments of inspiration to your year.  Push it to two a week and you add more than one hundred.  Imagine the possibilities.” – From 212 The Extra Degree

It’s time to celebrate more inspiring acts of paying your gratitude forward, as many of my cherished readers have shared with me what they are doing to make others’ lives a little lighter and brighter during the Holidays.

If you didn’t read my November 14 post (Two Kinds of Gratitude, Blog 387), it kicked off the annual Pay It Forward Challenge that I began several years ago.  From Thanksgiving through the end of the year, I invite my wonderful readers to join me in spreading some “comfort and joy” wherever we are, as a way of putting our gratitude for our own blessings into ACTION by making an extra effort to be kind and generous toward our fellow human beings.

A client sent me an article from DailyHealthPost.com titled “Gratitude Rewires Your Brain to be Happier.”  Psychologists from the University of California Davis and the University of Miami published a study in 2015 that looked at the physical outcomes of practicing gratitude.  Among the randomly-selected study subjects, one third kept a daily journal of things that happened during the week for which they were grateful.  Another third recorded daily irritations or events that had displeased them.  The last third of the study group wrote down daily situations and events that occurred, with no special emphasis on either positive or negative emotional reactions as to what had happened.

The randomly-assigned group that wrote daily about things they were grateful for reported feeling more optimistic and positive about their lives than the other two groups.  In addition, the gratitude group was more physically active and reported fewer visits to a doctor than those who wrote only about their negative experiences.

The article concluded, “Through the power of gratitude, you can wire your brain to be optimistic and compassionate, making you feel good.  The more you look, the more you can find to be grateful for.  This positivity can extend to those around you, creating a virtuous cycle.”

I would add that not only does paying it forward to others demonstrate your thankfulness for the blessing in your life, but it is also a proven way to put the Law of Attraction (“energy attracts like energy”) to work bringing you even MORE good to be grateful for.

Spreading kindness doesn’t have to be a big gesture.  I got the idea for the PIF Challenge when someone ahead of me in line at Starbucks paid for my drink.  When I approached him to thank him, he just smiled and said, “I trust you will pay it forward.”  And I did just that for the rest of the Holiday Season by buying multiple packs of $5 Starbucks gift cards and giving one to a barista at the counter every time I visited the store, asking her to bestow it on any customer at random after I left.  (Anonymous gestures of kindness and generosity can be the MOST fun of all.) This always puts a surprised smile on the barista’s face, too!

I asked my coaching clients and other blog subscribers to email me your own Pay it Forward stories so I could share them with other readers, in hopes of inspiring even MORE random acts of kindness and generosity among us.  Here are some new favorites:

  • Our mobile dog groomer, Janet, has a large email list which she regularly uses to send out requests to her contacts for things like helping a local animal rescue with their donation drive, matching individuals who are looking for local work with employers seeking helpers, as well as putting out the word whenever one of her friends or clients has a pet go missing. In this way, she is our local matchmaker who helps many others.
  • One of my clients who teaches Language Arts to sixth graders is teaching them how to write complete sentences that start with “I am grateful for…” The students have to write three of those gratitude sentences a day in their handmade Gratitude Journals. She is teaching the next generation about grammar and gratitude at the same time!
  • My compassionate client delivered a homemade dinner to a friend who broke her foot on top of having to care for her husband who had COVID at the same time.
  • One of my clients who thought she was “too busy” signed up to work a shift at her local food bank around Thanksgiving and liked it so much, she is now volunteering on a regular basis.
  • One of my clients had to step out of line at a busy checkout register at Walmart to run back and retrieve an item she forgot. When she returned, she bought a $20 Walmart gift card and bestowed it on the woman behind her with heartfelt thanks for waiting patiently for her return.
  • A reader wrote, “On a daily basis, I make it a point to give a compliment to a total stranger about their hair, an article of clothing, shade of lipstick or something like that.”
  • One client makes personalized greeting cards and sends them to elderly folks who are celebrating birthdays or anniversaries, along with a personal note of congratulations.
  • She also belongs to the Blue Star Mothers of America. “One of our mail projects is sending hand decorated Christmas stockings (about 450) to the troops overseas or away from home at Christmas time. We collect donations like individual packets of chips or crackers, playing cards, gum, wet wipes, etc. to fill the stockings.  In past years, we also baked homemade cookies and each stocking got a dozen.  This year they have to be pre-packaged.”
  • Another client does something similar with her church congregation, which puts together boxes of goodies for sailors who are in port over Christmas, with a “Thank you for your service” message inside each one.
  • A reader’s young daughter came up with the idea for the whole family to participate in helping stock a “pop up” food bank pantry in their area.
  • After sending a handwritten gratitude card to each of her customers at Thanksgiving, a client who is an interior designer went a step further for the Holidays, putting together lovely gift bags with small decorative items like dishtowels and candles for their homes and enclosed a note that says, “I am so grateful you chose me to work with you. It has been such a pleasure.”
  • That same client always gives an extra $2 to the toll booth attendants each time she passes through, telling them to use it for anyone who is caught unawares on the interstate without cash for the toll.
  • A client who is a horse lover always shops online at AmazonSmile.com, where a small portion of what she spends is donated to a Therapeutic Horseback Riding facility that helps people with a wide variety of special needs.
  • One of my clients took the Pay it Forward Challenge to her book club around Thanksgiving and reported back to me what they decided to do. The women gave eight classrooms of first and second graders a total of 285 Scholastic Reader books for Christmas. “The teachers were not able to purchase these books this year due to the book fair being online and not enough purchases were made to get credits the teachers usually use to pay for them.  We each donated money to purchase a book for each student to take home and keep!”
  • My longtime client’s young teen son seems to notice people in need wherever he goes and often persuades her to assist them. Recently, they were in a take-out line when he overheard a girl ask her mother, “Is there enough money left for dessert?”  He immediately asked my client if she could buy dessert for them. Out of the goodness of his big heart, he was going to pay her back with his own savings when they got home, but she gladly covered his act of generosity and compassion herself.

In case you doubt that small gestures of kindness and generosity can make a BIG impression on the recipient, I can attest that they DO.  The night before Thanksgiving, I was absorbed with preparing my first Thanksgiving feast in 14 years (because my live-in chef/husband Rick is recovering from back surgery). I had not even stopped to think about what I could do for a centerpiece to decorate the table, which is usually my main Thanksgiving responsibility. The doorbell rang about 6pm and when I opened it, I found the most beautiful bouquet of fall colors arranged inside of a Thanksgiving-themed cornucopia basket. The enclosed note from one of my coaching clients who lives on the East Coast, expressed her gratitude to me for helping her with her business and personal growth.  That gift and note were the highlight of my Thanksgiving this year.

The Holidays are far from over! So, I hope these Pay it Forward Challenge stories will give you some new ideas for creative ways to put your own gratitude into ACTION to help others. Once you start, I predict it will become a year-round happy habit for you! Please email me at caroll@practicalprosperitycoach.com and share your own stories so I can publish a final round of inspiring Pay It Forward outcomes before the end of 2020!

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*************** Give Yourself the Gift of Dreams Fulfilled! ******************

To schedule a no-obligation, F*R*E*E* HOUR of phone coaching that will help clarify your Big Goals and get you into ACTION to make them a reality, please email me at caroll@practicalprosperitycoach.com.