It’s likely that you’ve heard of pay it forward —the wonderful practice of doing an act of kindness for someone and having him or her return the favor by doing something kind for someone else. Popularized in the Kevin Spacey/Helen Hunt 2000 movie by that name, the practice has been resurrected during the pandemic. My nineteen-year-old grandson, who experienced it at the local McDonalds last week, was thrilled . . . as if it was a new wonder of the modern age. He was partly excited because the guy in front of him bought his $10 breakfast, whereas the women behind him only ordered a large Diet Coke.
Then, two days ago, I took a screen shot of a short article by volunteermatch.org in a women’s magazine that lauded the benefits of volunteering and generosity. It claimed that research shows that people who help others tend to feel better and live longer. I’ve subscribed to this belief for decades, and currently I’ve been sewing masks like crazy to boost my immune system. I jest, although volunteering, keeping hard promises, and being kind does provide a lot of personal satisfaction. To promote this form of well-being among friends, I posted the screen shot on Facebook’s messaging service.
There was a missed call, followed by a text. “Nothing big. I just wanted to tell ya something.” I called back. My stylist, Brandy, was one of the folks who got my message. “I did something today because of you and for you,” she said. She continued, her voice animated. “I volunteered to be a poll worker for the election. Most of the usual workers are at the age most vulnerable to the virus. They need to stay home. I needed to step up.” I can’t know for certain about Brandy’s feelings, but I was tingling with happiness at her news. I did remind her about PPEs, and she said that she would wear a hazmat suit if required.
If acts of kindness are not needed now, then when? As the article noted, it’s the perfect time to “give back, bounce back.”