Socially distancing for physical health can have the opposite effect on our mental health. We are social beings, created to connect meaningfully with other human beings. When we lose that, we lose part of ourselves.
Tough times force us to get creative. While there are surely many ways to stay connected, I submit the best ways are those which take us out of ourselves by seeking to uplift others. One way is the concept of “paying it forward.”
To start, jot down 30 times someone has done something kind for you. 30 things might seem rather daunting at first, but once you get started, you might be surprised by what you think of.
In my own case, it was easy to start because Covid visited our home. During that time, two people sent us flowers (one person told us to “practice smelling them every morning so you will know when you get your sense of smell back”!)
Another person asked us what groceries we needed during our quarantine and dropped them off on our porch – at no charge. Two others dropped off meals and one out-of-state friend ordered a meal to be delivered. Others sent us encouraging messages online.
Last year, when I slipped on the ice and broke my left leg and ankle, friends sent me books to read, adult coloring books, and special treats. One friend sent me a big fluffy pillow!
In none of these cases could I repay these individuals in kind, mainly because their circumstances and needs were not the same as mine. What I could do was figure out a way to “pay it forward.”
So here is my 30 days of doing just that during this pandemic:
Flowers are a day-brightener, especially when they are unexpected. I thought of a former neighbor, quite helpful when my children were young, who now resides in a nursing home. Flowers sent.
Sharing a favorite book is a way of sharing part of yourself, as well as providing a “great escape” for someone who is homebound. I just finished reading The Magician’s Elephant by Kate DiCamillo. Great book! Ordered a copy and sent to a shut-in from our church who loves to read.
Books, more glorious books! Sent copies of other favorite books to two homebound friends.
Thought of two young couples I know, both with new babies. Prepared a meal for each to leave on their porch. Who wants to cook all the time when they have a new baby in the house!?
Free groceries. Not sure who among my acquaintances might be in need of free groceries, so gathered up a number of canned goods to drop off at our local food pantry.
A friend’s husband has dementia but enjoys doing art. Package of art supplies sent.
When a local grocery store limited my husband to two cans of pumpkin puree, and he had four in his cart, the lady behind him paid for the other two! Today we paid for the person behind us in the drive-thru.
Because my daughter-in-law is an RN working with Covid patients, and I see what they are dealing with right now (in addition to being grateful for all the great medical care I have received in the past), I put together a box of goodies for her to take to work to share with the other nurses.
So far all these ideas have involved a cost, and if money is tight, you may be thinking, “I can’t do that, certainly not for 30 days – I’d be broke!” But there are many ways to pay things forward that cost very little or nothing at all.
Start by baking a dozen large cookies. Wrap them individually and tie with a little ribbon. Then add a note that says: “Thank you for all you do. You are appreciated!” Can you come up with a dozen people you could deliver these to? Could you come up with half a dozen people and give them each two cookies?
Delivered cookies to the mail carrier, the pizza delivery person, the gal who delivered our groceries, the garbage collector, and twice, the cashiers at the drive-thru.
Have you ever received an unexpected note or card in the mail that brightened your day? I know I have. That’s why every day for a week, I thought of someone I could drop a note to.
Some of them weren’t very long – just “Thinking of you and hope you are doing well. I miss you.” I also tried to include a favorite memory.
Same thing when I thought of phone calls that have cheered me up. Who could I cheer up with a phone call? Are there friends I haven’t talked to in a while? Who might be lonely? More often than not, we both benefited.
Perhaps you can also think of a time when you wished someone had done something kind for you and didn’t. What could someone have done, and what would that have meant to you at the time?
Can you think of a way you could do that for someone else? I came up with a personal (private) disappointment. It feels good to fix that for someone else!
I am fortunate to have several of my grandchildren within my “bubble” during this pandemic and had them help me with parts of this project. I wanted to model thinking of others. But I also wanted to demonstrate the truth of the saying, “Those who bring joy to others cannot keep it from themselves!”
Have you ever tried to “pay something forward”? What are some of your favorite ways? What were the results, and how did it make you feel? Please share your thoughts with the community!