There’s an old joke . . .
“Let’s eat grandpa.”
“Let’s eat, grandpa.”
A comma can save a person’s life.
Just as a small punctuation mark can change the meaning of a sentence, a simple gesture of goodwill can bring a rhythm and order to life. For some people, performing an act of goodwill is instinctive. Take my friend Kendra. Kind and compassionate, Kendra recently gave me flowers to cheer me up when I was feeling down.
I came home to find a fragrant hyacinth plant on my front porch with a thoughtful, hand-written note attached. Hyacinth happens to be one of my favorites, but the type of flower didn’t matter. Kendra could have brought me a sack of flour and I would have been touched. It was the idea that she was thinking of me that I found meaningful. When my emotions were off kilter, Kendra helped me find the balance.
For people like Kendra, doing good deeds comes as naturally as eating, sleeping, and reading the tabloid headlines in the grocery checkout line do for the rest of us. Good-willed individuals spend time helping people who are needy— the single parent who lost her job, the homeless man who is hungry, the child who needs a new pair of shoes. The rest of us spend our free time complaining—about the lady on the train talking loudly on her cellphone, the guy driving slow in the fast lane, or our kid who leaves a tissue in his jacket pocket and puts it through the washing machine.
Many of us have good intentions but get so caught up with life that we are too busy to take care of our own needs, let alone the needs of others. Doing a good deed may require thought and effort but it doesn’t have to be a tremendous undertaking. Kendra, for example, always keeps a few extra quarters in her car so she can feed other people’s meters. That makes her the Good Meter Fairy in my book.
But paying it forward doesn’t have to set you back even a quarter. You can give of yourself, literally, by donating blood. 100% goes straight to those in need, unlike monetary donations that are sometimes put toward things like administrative costs, publicity, and 120-foot yachts. An added benefit to giving blood is its tangible rewards. You can get coupons for free stuff and all-you-can-eat muffins and juice in the recovery area.
Doing a good deed can be as simple as letting someone go ahead of you in line. Once, while buying fruit at the grocery store, I let an elderly woman who was struggling to carry a basket of groceries go ahead of me. She thanked me profusely, then let her husband join her in line. His shopping cart was filled to the brim with groceries and he had a coupon for every item. By the time I finally checked out, my bananas had ripened, but I still felt good.
Doing good deeds can give our lives meaning and bring gratification and joy from contributing to the lives of others. The point is you don’t have to pull out your wallet to pay it forward. Sometimes giving someone a smile—or letting them go ahead of you in line—can be priceless.