When you reach out and lend a hand, you are often times setting off a positive sequence of events which will reach far beyond anything you could have imagined. 
    When I was a young child, my father took us to spend Christmas Downtown Seattle handing out clothing and cash to homeless folks on the streets. What an impact these experiences had on me. I got a lesson about appreciation, compassion, acceptance, empathy, and an early realization about how important community is. There was a man sitting in Pioneer Square on a bench in the cold and alone. At 8 years old, I knew just what I'd give this man. I walked over to him and handed him a new navy blue baseball cap and two $1 bills. I smiled and said "Merry Christmas Sir". He returned the smile and looked at me with excitement in his eyes when he replied so sincerely, "oh thank you child, now the birds won't sh** in my hair anymore!" Of all the folks I met that year, he is the one I'll never forget. It is because of these experiences I don’t walk by folks who are down on their luck and pretend they don't exist like so many others do, instead I look them in the eye and smile when I say hello. I think of that nice man who appreciated the simplest little gift like it was the greatest present ever, every time I lose sight of what's important in life. I think of him when I give the man who is standing at the freeway entrance a couple of dollars and whatever snacks I may have in my car. I think of that sweet man when I'm working on strengthening my community because that Christmas gift he gave me that year really was the greatest gift ever. It's been over 25 years and he still inspires the choices I make. It's because of him that I've gone out of my way to help others. I care to make an effort in my community because my very first community involvement was such a positive experience. All of these years later, the man I met that day has no idea the impact he had on my life. I took those gifts he gave me that year and to this day,  I still pay it forward. 
    Another lesson I learned is to teach my children the importance of community at a young age. It encourages them to think about the needs of others and that's really the foundation of community. Thank you for reading and stay tuned for more of Pay it Forward = )

Cindy Clark
9/13/2012 07:28:18

What a terrific memory and life lesson your Dad gave you! I can tell that you have a beautiful soul based on what you've written in your past blogs, and I'm sure your Dad is very proud of the person you've become.

I've been trying very hard to teach these same lessons to my children as well....and you're right.....volunteering in our community is one of the best ways to do so. We're to the point that my kids look forward to the annual Earth Day activities, assisting with fundraisers, etc., and I believe they're never too young to learn (my youngest was 3 when she started to join in).

We need more people like you. It's amazing the difference one person can make.....

9/13/2012 09:04:07

Thank you for your kind reply. I am always so happy to meet other parents who realize the importance of teaching their children to give back to their community. Thank you for encouraging little community builders! It is my hope folks will share their "Pay it Forward" stories also because they do encourage us to be our best selves = )


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