Making “Kindness” & “Generosity” Real
Paying-it-Forward happens when we show kindness and generosity to others, without any expectation of reciprocity, reward or recognition. The following is a real-life example of the societal, economic, organizational and personal effect of paying-it-forward.
On a cold Friday in late November, I woke-up on the pavement in Newark, NJ, sore, uncomfortable with a dull headache. Normally, I sleep in a bed in a warm, secure home. I chose to “sleep out” on an urban street to raise awareness and funds to help Covenant House save the lives of homeless youth. Together with many other hearty folks, we raised $1M. Of the many ways to pay-it-forward, this one resonated deeply, personally.
Explore What Matters to You
Six years ago, I became aware that thousands of local youth experience homelessness. These kids are indistinguishable from most teenagers, looking often-times like our own. Some age-out of foster care, get thrown out by parents, stay for brief periods with relatives/friends and then begin sleeping on the street, in parks, etc.. Once they’re living on the street, for as few as one or two days, the chances of being exposed to human trafficking increases exponentially. These kids are extremely vulnerable – helping them recover from the harsh effects, restoring their dignity, and enabling them to lead productive lives requires special resources. A friend introduced me to Covenant House (CH), an organization dedicated to helping homeless youth. CH often saves/transforms the lives of homeless youth, helping them overcome trauma to become healthy independent, productive citizens. They have an outstanding rating on Charity Navigator, which reflects fiscal and organizational efficiency.
The “Gift” — Making a Difference in the Lives of Others
One night sleeping on pavement barely gave me a taste of what homeless youth actually experience. Nonetheless, those cold, lonely moments on the pavement left me with an invaluable gift: Being a force for good can help others to be great. Before bedding down on pavement, several homeless youth shared their incredible journeys. They calmly shared their tragic circumstances, the path they’re taking to overcome, cope and prevail. They’re living examples of resilience & the power of unconditional love that CH staff provides.
At this year’s Sleep Out, to help inspire youth at the shelter to prevail over countless barriers, NY Giant Saquon Barkley attended. He met the kids, answered their questions, listened to their stories, offered them encouragement and shared his own inspiring message of hope. Seeing the kids light-up as Saquon encouraged their brave pursuit of their dreams was magical.
The Personal Upside of Paying-it-Forward
Paying-it-Forward generates positive and material benefits for the organization, people served, and the community at-large. The personal upside of my involvement with Covenant House was unexpected and extraordinary. I formed new friendships and rekindled old ones. Fellow participants, a diverse group of like-minded people, included acclaimed authors, award winning actors, pioneering entrepreneurs, Fortune 100 execs, pro-athletes, renowned thought leaders and many others. Our shared belief in paying-it-forward formed the basis for meaningful, lasting, valuable relationships.
Commercial Impact of “Pay-it-Forward”
Thanks to social media and the often blurred lines between our personal and professional lives, people are making conscious decisions who to buy from, work for based on the alignment of a business’ actions and their stated core values. Large companies sometimes have functions dedicated to fulfilling their commitment to paying-it-forward (think “corporate social responsibility” and charitable giving/matching programs). Some businesses embed pay-it-forward beliefs in their goals/objectives. Many businesses publicize partnerships, and staff engagement in pay-it-forward activity to highlight their commitment.
Paying-it-Forward Fosters Greater Happiness, Health & Prosperity
When paying-it-forward, we model constructive and unifying behavior to families, friends and communities. The energy created by “doing good” is fuel for the human spirit. Deepak Chopra, one of the world’s most inspirational thought leaders said it best during a 2016 Sleep Out: “I’m grateful for every breath that I take and I just want share it with everyone.”
If you’re already committed to paying-it-forward, that’s fantastic! Please consider sharing your journey – every act of kindness and generosity matters. Whether in casual passing, intentional conversation or writing, pass the “gift” along so that others can be inspired to explore ways to pay-it-forward. Our own good fortune takes on greater meaning when we harness it to help others. I’m happier and more prosperous today than ever, and believe that my commitment to paying-it-forward has helped me to “do good while doing well”.
What’s your “pay-it-forward” experience? Every act matters, so thanks for sharing and inspiring others to do so too.