Paying It Forward

You will find as you look back upon your life that the moments when you have truly lived are the moments when you have done things in the spirit of love.

– Henry Drummond

This morning I went out for my usual longer Sunday run.  The weather was a frigid fifteen degrees but the wind was not up yet. It seemed down right balmy compared to the temperatures we have had these last few days when it was just a single degree! The sun was out-sitting low on the January horizon and I thought it would be a good day to work on my polar tan.

Sometimes on Sundays I feel rushed because I teach high school Sunday School each week. We have a committed crew of five teachers and work best when our lessons are shot from the hip. I had a feeling that our staff levels would be down this week so I could not give into temptation and skip out on my obligations to the youth of my community.  I arrived a bit late to find just a half-dozen teenagers waiting patiently in the chapel. I was followed quickly by another teacher and off we went on an enlightening Sunday morning discussion.

When I don’t want to show up and hang out at home (or even attend a full worship service), I remember the gifts that my faith community has given me. I forge ahead with the morning and I never have any regrets about going and giving my energy and time to others. Something wonderful and unexpected always happens as a result.

Lately I have gotten to thinking about those times when either others have helped me or when I have had a negative experience that could have easily ruined my day or week. It is easy to take another person’s good nature or generosity for granted. It is easy to be selfish- especially when you are undergoing a traumatic time that seems never-ending. I know I have been this way;  I have not been on my best behavior when things got really difficult. Luckily, I have had people in my life who were not afraid to call me out on my actions. I know that they did so because they saw me as a stronger and better woman than the one that was showing up.

Five years ago (nearly to the very day, in fact), I was in the middle of a graduate school program, going through a tempestuous separation process, working full time and trying to raise two teenage boys. Sunday mornings consistently found me at my big roll top desk writing a research paper. I would get up early, drink coffee and get down to business. My reward upon completion of my task would be a long run and a hot shower. On this particular Sunday, my estranged spouse unexpectedly showed up at the door under the auspices of seeing his sons. In fact, he only appeared to retrieve items from the house. When I would not allow him to do so and offered to get said items (he had a practice of taking other things that were not his), he immediately launched into a tirade ( The words were rated R). Well, needless to say, he was asked to leave. The moment was not pleasant; I knew that I needed to do something to alleviate my negative feelings. So, a run was in order. Running is the perfect vehicle for getting my head back on straight and it was on this jaunt that I decided to plan a celebration for the boys and me. I would graduate from my program in May, my youngest was to be confirmed that same month and my oldest was having a stellar athletic and academic junior year. I deemed the party “A Celebration of Threes.” We allowed for three of our friends to be invited (or a factor thereof) and the party was held at a favorite upscale pizza restaurant. Those present were people who loved and supported us through the years (including my high school track coach and his wife-he was now coaching my oldest!). My children’s father was even in attendance for a short while. The party was a success and is a moment in time that we remember as one of great fun in the midst of chaos.

Skipping ahead to present day, so much has changed for the better. There is a lightness in our lives and thoughts even with the challenges that growing up and growing old can bring. As I mentioned in my previous blog, my oldest recently purchased a car ( an old but very reliable SUV thanks to my cousin).  The asking price was a bit more than he had on hand. I told my son that I would figure out a way to come up with the rest. After a good night’s sleep, I went into town, passing by the jewelry store that I had re-sized my engagement ring. Then it dawned on me!!  When I brought my ring in to be sized, I also had brought in my old wedding band and engagement ring (don’t ask me why I had not gotten rid of them long ago when I really needed money). I would go in and ask the status of the appraisal.  Coincidentally ( or not), the rings were in the process of being priced and the owner told me to come back in 3 days-the rings would be ready. When I made the call on Tuesday, the price was the exact amount needed for the car plus a little bit more. We were thrilled and relieved. For me, it was the perfect way to symbolically let get of past hurts. I am so grateful that my son could benefit from this action. Possessing a car of his own at his age (22) is yet another step toward independence.

So, I guess you could say these two stories are a twist in paying it forward. For me, they are like bookends to the idea. Because my life has less trauma and chaos, I am freer to give to others who are in similar situations. I am able to give back in a variety of ways to the people and places that held me up. I can take pain and transform it into something healing and beneficial.

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