(4/2014) We, as parents, have a very short amount of time to "mold" our children into productive, caring, happy members of society. We all want our children to be happy, to find the right person and fall in love and start a family. We all want our children to have a career that they love that will also be able to support them and their family. But, how
often do we think about what kind of person they will become. Will they be polite, caring, loving people? What if we concentrated on raising children who thought first of other people and how they could make the world a better place than it was when they entered it? What if our children were encouraged to "pay it forward" and see where it takes our world?
I am not talking about the huge things that were "paid forward" in the movie with Kevin Spacey, Helen Hunt and Haley Joel Osment. I am talking about just thinking of others. The simplest thing can make a difference in someone’s day. When my girls were asking if we were going to do anything special for Valentine’s Day it caused me to have to get
creative. I realized the girls were missing handing out Valentine’s cards to their friends at school. So I decided we needed to have a talk about why we give the cards. They agreed the reason you give cards is not because of the way it makes you feel but more for how it makes everyone else feel. It seemed like a simple jump to make cards for our local rehabilitation and
nursing center. After I got all of the craft supplies out we immediately started crafting. The cards were fabulous, unique, and quite interesting. Then I made the call to find out exactly how many we needed (after all we had already made 30 and couldn’t need too many more…right?) They said we needed approximately 80 and we got busy again. When we dropped of the cards the
girls were beaming. That was nothing compared to the response they got from a couple of older ladies in the lobby. Just seeing to little girls in there lobby made these ladies smile ear to ear, then the receptionist couldn’t stop thanking them. When we got in the car my oldest daughter (9 years old) said, "did you see them smiling mommy, that was awesome!" and she continued,
"what is the next holiday?"
When we got home we had a long conversation about how important it is to do for others. The smallest little gesture can make someone’s day. My mother-in-law makes jewelry for a hobby. My girls enjoy getting a new piece of jewelry from her more than a bowl of ice cream, and let me tell you that is a lot! They love that feeling so much that they decided
to start making the loom bracelets for everyone, and I mean everyone. They gave them to everyone who they could think of and then they started carrying them with them so they could brighten the day of a stranger. Think back to when you were a child and picture the smile in my daughters’ hearts when their Meme and Poppop came to visit from Delaware and they showered them with
loom jewelry. It doesn’t always take a big thing to make someone’s day.
Since I am homeschooling my girls this year I have decided that we needed to pick a different thing each month to "pay it forward". Whether it be making cards for each holiday or making jewelry for strangers I want my girls to understand the importance of being thoughtful and kind. They are both learning to write in cursive. I have made their cursive
practice for the day to write a little note of encouragement on an index card. I explained that we can now mail the index cards, or hand them to a friend, or even take them to the local hospitals to be given to patients to brighten their day. I know my children love receiving little notes or cards (actually anything) in the mail. Who am I kidding I love it when I get
something positive in the mail. Maybe my elation has more to do with receiving something that is not a bill, but all the same it puts a smile on my face. What a wonderfully simple way to pay it forward. Send someone a hand written note in the mail and see what a difference it will make in their outlook for the day or even week. Then imagine if they do the same for someone
else, and so on and so on…wow!
It is so funny to me how excited my girls are to do these things for other people. It has made me realize how important it is to instill the "pay it forward" mentality at a young age. My boys still do nice things for people but, they are busier and busier the older they get and sometimes they just aren’t as motivated as the girls to do these kinds of
things. I actually believe this is the premise behind service learning hours in Carroll County Public Schools, to get to do for others. Not unlike many other parents, I am sure; I have been struggling to find service learning opportunities for my boys that will make a difference. We have recently started looking into helping smaller local charities that often get overlooked,
but will allow us to make that difference. Maybe in this case the pay it forward will be seen when other people realize how many small charities are out there that can use our help and they will have more help than they know what to do with.
Regardless of what you do, or who you do for, just make sure if something makes you smile then be sure to "pay it forward". Also, do not forget to teach your children the importance of this inspiring and rewarding concept.
Read other articles by Mary Angel