This guest post was written by Kate Hall, a Publicist at PowerPR, and someone I’m fortunate enough to call a friend. I know Kate through the Social Media Club of Dallas and I can’t say that I’ve ever seen this girl not smiling. So, naturally the topic of this post is very fitting for her.
With the holidays rapidly approaching (I swear just yesterday it was October), everyone gets caught up in the hustle and bustle and the who-am-I-buying-what-for-and-when-do-I-have-time routine. Rarely during the year do we pay enough attention to others and how we might be able to help. There are small gifts we can give others if we just take a little time and become aware of everyday opportunities that can make a significant difference in someone else’s day, week or even month. Below are a few ways you can pay it forward during the holiday season and throughout the year.
1. Smile. A lot.
I’m not talking about the dopey, aloof types of smiles, but the meaningful, look-you-in-the-eye type that is contagious. Smile to the guy in the car next to you, the woman that you pass in the parking lot, especially the Grinch you might encounter with a smug look plastered on their face. You know what they say, “turn that frown upside down!”
2. Let someone cut
Christmas time is notorious for long lines, pushy salespeople and frustrated shoppers. Even outside of the last few weeks of December, shopping lines at grocery stores can be miserable. If you have the time and especially if someone next to you has only a few items, it is so easy to help them out. Something as simple as letting an old man cut you in line can really make a difference in their hectic, busy day. Feeling generous? Pick up the tab for the old man’s Cheerios, orange juice and denture
toothpaste—I’m sure that’s never happened to him before.
3. Spend money where it counts
Its unavoidable: You will spend too much money this Christmas. No, your mom probably doesn’t need more candles and your grandma could go without another scarf. How about giving them something that gives back to a cause they love? Many charities and nonprofits make it easy for you to give a gift on their behalf by showing you how much impact a monetary donation can have. For instance, at Genesis Women’s Shelter $5 provides a lunch for a child in the on-site school and $25 provides a free counseling session for a woman in crisis. If you are dead set on giving an actual gift wrapped under the tree, St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital has a ton of options for gifts where 100% of profits benefit the hospital. Here is a link to the Hope Giftbook: GiftCatalog.
4. Say it with me: Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.
Growing up in the south, this is something you get used to but it shouldn’t be taken for granted. Everyone likes to feel appreciated even if all they are doing is their job. This is especially true for men and women who are super busy this time of year working in customer service or at the post office, UPS, and FedEx. I’m sure they have to deal with some pissy customers for issues that are beyond their control. Remembering to say “please” and “thank you” regardless of your interactions is something that shouldn’t be forgotten.
5. Be Positive
Positivity, like smiles, is contagious. In most cases it takes a little time and patience trying to find the silver lining but it is always worth it. You can take a deep breath and choose how you will react, and more often than not your reaction will spur another and another. By the way, no one likes to be around a Debbie Downer much less being Debbie themselves.
6. Pick up the phone
Whether you are calling your dad, old colleague or college roommate, it is always nice to hear a familiar voice just calling to say they were thinking about you. All it takes is a few minutes a few days a week. As a queen of multitasking, I’ve learned these calls can be made while you are waiting for your car to be washed or going for a walk. Regardless of the time and place, the person on the end of the other line is usually very happy to hear from you.
7. Leave a Tip
Now this is a case where you are actually paying money to pay it forward. Nevertheless, waiters, bartenders, and people in the business of serving others don’t exactly have it easy. I don’t even want to know some of the things they have to deal with. My friends who have been waiters and bartenders are the people who are most adamant about leaving a “good” tip. From their perspectives, it isn’t done frequently enough. Whether you can give 10, 15 or 25 percent I’m sure it will be greatly appreciated.
8. Perfect the handwritten note
It is so easy to send a text or an email but handwritten notes seem to be a dying art form. They don’t have to be the fancy ones that sing “You Shook Me All Night Long” to make a difference. Just getting personal mail is a step up for most people! A simple “Thinking of You” note should do the trick!
Whether you are able to share your time with a friend or talent with a co-worker, the same kindergarten principles hold true today: “sharing is caring” and one of my food favorites: “everything tastes better when you share.” It really doesn’t take much. You can bring food to work to share with your colleagues, offer to lend a hand with chores or sharing your time to catch up with an old friend.
10. Perfect the Golden Rule
If you let the simple phase “do unto others as you would have them do unto you” lead your decisions you should be set. Well, that and going a little above and beyond when you are able. That is what really delivers the wow and can spread the pay it forward mentality. Just that little extra.
Surely there are other specific examples that I wasn’t able to capture. Has anyone paid it forward in an extreme way? Sometimes those are sparked by something as simple as opening the door for someone or letting them take the front and center parking space. If you think about it, paying it forward is the best investment you can make!