Sunday, August 7, 2011

Really Pay It Forward

I mourn the loss of any bookstore, since it lowers the IQ as well as the property values of the area around it. But money is tight these days and so I was among the other vultures picking over the corpse that was once Borders, looking at children's books. I had waited in a long line, I was hot, I was tired, I was cranky.

After I paid, I took my cranky self and my purchases and stood outside. Then I saw a woman walking toward me. She was a big girl like myself, but she had on a beautiful dress. She looked fabulous. As she approached me, I decided to do something that I hardly ever do: I told a complete stranger that I liked what she was wearing. I made sure that my tone was polite and cheerful just to counteract my crankiness. Her response was a sarcastic "Thanks" as she passed, as if I had insulted her.

My immediate reaction was extremely negative. I wanted to grab her, sling her around, and slap her silly. Look, I wanted to say, I was paying you a compliment. I was doing something NICE, and you just crapped on it.

But I didn't. I remembered something important.

If you give a gift, pay a compliment, or otherwise display kindness toward another and expect or demand a thank you for it, then you've negated the kindness, compliment, or gift. Gifts of kindness should be given freely, without expectation of reward. That warm feeling that we all get for performing some kindness should be enough. If you expect to be rewarded or 'owed' for your gift, then you are being kind for YOU, not the other person.

We've probably all had someone who did something nice for us at some point in our lives. Did we say "thank you"? Was our thanks enough? When we perform a kindness for another person, do we expect them to grovel at our feet in their professions of thanks? What does that say about us, that many of us feel entitled to that gratitude?

Sometimes I will do something nice for someone anonymously. I do this to remind myself that I don't have to be thanked. Nobody "owes" me anything in those situations because they don't know that I am the giver.

I still feel that warm glow, and that is thanks enough.


  1. That was a great post and a great reminder for us all.

  2. I agree with Rebecca but my evil twin would still like to take that girl and turn her around and shake her lol.

    I do need to learn this. I am always complimenting strangers and I always let people with less items at the store go ahead of me. Often they don't say thank you (which really burns me), after reading this, maybe I won't be as sensitive about it.

  3. Oh this is so true, and to say I live by it would be so false! I try...that's fair to say. I do feel like there is a line with some folks where the sheer lack of any sort of acknowledgment or appreciation is in their own poor taste. (I'm not talking compliment level good deeds here). :)

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