A $20 bill might not seem like much money to you, but what if you were on the unexpected receiving-end of one?
A while back, I set a goal of giving away $20 a day. I started giving a $20 bill to a random stranger whenever I went out. While it didn’t seem like a lot, even in today’s world where everything seems expensive, $20 can still buy you a handful of groceries, or a meal out. There’s certainly a short-term benefit.
But that’s not why $20 a day can change someone’s life.
It’s not about the transactional value that $20 represents. It’s about the act of giving. Being kind to someone you don’t know — that has a much larger impact than the money itself.
Pay it forward
You don’t have to go sit in a long Starbucks drive-thru line to pay something forward. You don’t even have to give someone $20 a day.
The way I see it, I’m grateful for what I have, where I am, and where I have been. I want to pay that energy forward, and I think random acts of kindness are a way to do this. Put yourself in the mindset of a giver — you and all those around you will be better off for it.
To me, “paying it forward” is a mixture of a couple things: gratitude, kindness, and empathy. The world is large and full of people we don’t know — change that!
Share words with a total stranger, do something kind for someone you don’t know very well, spread positive vibes in the hopes that they’ll keep spreading it. Like the ongoing ripples in the water caused by a rock being tossed in a calm pond, sharing an act of kindness has ongoing impact.
That’s what a Starbucks pay-it-forward chain is more than anything else. Sure, eventually it breaks (when someone respectfully declines, or perhaps gets saddled with a rather…large…order request), but the line itself is just one way to spread kindness and positivity.
We can all be positive, but it takes a constant shift in mindset. How will you approach the day? How will you interact with those around you? How will you choose to behave yourself?
It’s not easy. If it was — everyone would be chipper. If it was easy to set aside the weight of yesterday, or the day before, or the week before, or a lifetime of struggling — who wouldn’t?
So maybe $20 won’t fix all of someone’s problems, but it can change someone’s life because — even for that day, that week, that month — it might make them feel better.
It might inspire them to help someone else. It might help them shift their own thinking. World got you down? How about taking stock in its people?
They feel good. You feel good. They’re in a better mood. You’re in a better mood. Is there any stronger example of a win-win situation?
Interestingly, after several months of starting this practice, I unexpectedly ended up as the recipient of someone’s gift.
My 6 year old daughter and I were out for a daddy-daughter date at Ihop. When I asked for the bill, the server told me that another customer paid for our meal. I was shocked! I ran to the window to peer into the parking lot to see if I could find the gift-giver, however I only saw the quiet parking lot.
I don’t know who this person was, or why they chose us, but it made a tremendous impact on me. It increased my desire to have that kind of impact on others!
It’s one thing to speak about being kind and improving your own sense of positivity, but it’s another to provide actionable steps for doing so.
My basic analogy is the gas tank. We wake up after a good night’s sleep with a full gas tank of energy. After that, it’s on us — is the gas positive or toxic?
Your tank also depends on other things: How you perceive the world, how you participate in the world, and how the people around you behave (friends, family, co-workers, etc.) all have an impact on your own frame of mind, even if you don’t realize it.
Not to mention, today’s media influx adds a unique challenge. With the bevy of negative news stories, the damning maze that can be social media…it’s simply harder to be positive.
But staying positive will pay dividends on your own health. And maybe, just maybe, it will encourage you to help others any way you can.
Whether it’s a $20 bill, jumpstarting a car, or sharing kind words, we can all have an impact on each other’s lives. Every single day.