Thursday, December 22, 2011

Layaway Angels and 25 Ways to Pay it Forward

In a holiday season filled with mace-weilding Black Friday crazed shoppers, there has been a refreshing and inspiring trend sweeping the nation.

In a random acts of generosity, people have been anonymously paying off strangers' layaway bills at Kmart and other departments stores.  It started when a 30-something woman walked into a Kmart in Michigan and told the cashier she wanted to pay the bills of "a few unsuspecting customers."

Her generosity has sparked a trend.  Kmart officials say that over 1000 "layaway angels" have paid off strangers' bills in their stores this year in states throughout the country, Michigan, Las Vegas, Colorado, and even here in Hawaii.  One donor in California paid off the layaway bills of 260 families, totaling almost $16,000.

This wave of Christmas generosity is inspiring.  However, you don't have to spend $16,000 to make a difference.  You don't have to spend anything, actually.  There are so many ways to give to others, and often the smallest token of generosity can have a ripple effect.  So I came up with this list of:

25 Low-Cost or No-Cost Ways to Pay it Forward

1.            Put quarters in almost-expired parking meters.
2.            Leave an extra generous tip for a waiter/waitress/cab driver/valet.
3.            While going through the drive through lane at a fast food restaurant, pay for the next person's order (I got this idea from a good friend and amazingly altruistic person, Tom Persico).  Similarly, you could do this at a movie theater, parking garage or toll booth.
4.            Buy or make a meal and give it to a homeless person (or give him or her your to-go bag).
5.            Pick up the phone and call someone you haven't spoken to in a long time. 
6.            Give a stranger a genuine compliment.
7.            Smile.
8.            Stop and help a tourist with directions.
9.            Hold the door open for someone.
10.       The next time you are returning home form a foreign country, leave the rest of your foreign currency to someone from that country.
11.       Praise someone for something they do well.  In person or in hand-written note.  Even better, also tell their boss or spouse what a great job they do.
12.       Buy a bunch of umbrellas and hand them out to strangers on a rainy day (this is a perfect idea in Hilo.  I can't tell you the number of times I get stuck in the rain there because I forgot my umbrella).
13.       If you travel often and like me, hoard hotel soap and shampoo, clean out your closet and donate all those bottles of shampoo and conditioner to a homeless shelter.
14.       Volunteer your time at a battered women's shelter or another worthy cause.
15.       Give up your seat to someone on a bus or a train.
16.       Shovel your neighbor's sidewalk and driveway when you shovel yours.  Growing up, we had the kindest neighbor, Mr. Andrews that always shoveled ours.
17.       Offer to take someone to the airport.
18.       Invite someone who isn't going home for the holidays to Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner.  My husband actually invited me to his parent's home for Christmas the very first night we met and I accepted.  It was this act of generosity and courage that endeared me to him from the start.
19.       Donate blood.
20.       Mow someone's lawn or rake someone's leaves.
21.       Bring in a neighbor's trash can after garbage pick up.  We have the sweetest neighbor, Mrs. Sora, who does this for us every week.
22.       Let someone cut ahead of you in line.
23.       Tell a soldier you appreciate their service.
24.       Visit an elderly person.
25.       Donate money or your time to a good cause (or person).

How can you pay it forward today?

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