There are three components to true gratitude. The first is that someone has benefited from the kindness of another. The second is that there was some personal cost to the benefactor. The third is that the benefit has value in the eyes of the receiver.
Let’s look at an example. My brother, Scott, is a surgeon with a successful podiatry practice. Because of his passion and desire to help others, he not only donates his time at the local free clinic, he often provides free medical care to his patients without insurance. While his service comes at no charge, there is a catch: he requires his patient to “pay it forward” and do something nice for someone else.
A patient with a serious foot infection did not have the money or the insurance to pay for treatment. After letting him know about the “pay it forward” stipulation, Scott agreed to remedy the infection. A few weeks after the successful treatment, the patient came into the office to let Scott know that he had stopped to assist a woman on the freeway with a flat tire the previous day – something he had never done before. The patient was radiant as he felt the sheer joy of helping someone with no expectation of return. Scott felt great because he knew that he had made a difference not only in this man’s health, but in his life as well.
As you can see, there is gratitude on both sides of the equation. My brother’s patient benefited from free medical care. He knew he was to pay it forward in some manner and he stopped to help a stranded motorist. The health of his foot was valuable to him.
My brother benefited from the knowledge that he impacted at least two lives in this transaction. He spent the time in absorb the costs to treat this man, and he knows that in his own way, he is making an impact in the world.
There are times that we do what we need to do to get by, and nothing more. We focus on our own priorities, and we don’t think we have the time to serve others or go the extra mile. However we find that when we do something in service of another no matter how small the effort we feel better about ourselves. Maybe we vow to be helpful more often and then life gets in the way until the next time.
How much better of a place with the world be if we started consciously looking for ways to support others. Maybe it’s volunteering a couple hours a week with an organization that you respect. Or going through your belongings and giveaway the things that you are not using to a worthy cause; there’s plenty of them out there. You can make a call or send a card to someone that needs to hear from you. You don’t have to go to the extent of giving away free medical care, whatever you do makes a difference.
In what ways can you “pay it forward” today? Make it a goal to do one random act of kindness this week with no expectation of return. Better yet, don’t tell anyone what you did. Enjoy the pleasure of anonymity in a media-focused world.
The book, Pay it Forward, is a delightful read and shows the power of giving, receiving and paying it forward.
Read this story and many more in “The Upside of Down Times: Discovering the Power of Gratitude” http://amzn.to/NjNs06