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.