Pay It Forward…

Below is an e-mail I received from the Gammons [my bolds for emphasis]:

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Gammon family-

I writing to let you know of situation, a situation that has affected me to the point of putting it into words and has given me hope toward restoring my faith in people, and in this crowded and lonely city they call LA. An opportunity had presented itself to me yesterday while heading back to work after picking up lunch. Yes you heard correctly, I was working on Saturday to get some overtime for work.

While myself and my two other colleagues Fred and Marlon were pulling out of Ralph’s parking lot we noticed that the beverage delivery guy from Coca-Cola, had just spilled his entire load of beverages all over the ground, partially blocking the exit to the street.

Because the parking lot is at a slant due to it being on the side of a hill, distributors are forced to deal with the precarious angle that their loads are on because they have to go downhill. With his load being too top heavy for the plastic wrapping, gravity soon took over and the inevitible happened. Everything from 16oz. cans of Coke to 24oz. cans of Rockstar were busted all over the ground, cases upon cases, upon cases. You couldn’t forget the look on the driver’s face if you tried, defeat and hopelessness as he began the slow process of picking everthing up one by one.
At this point we had a choice; either drive past him and head back to work, or pull over and help this poor guy fix an unfortunate case of gravity gone wrong; we chose the latter.

“Pull over,” I told Marlon, “let’s help this guy out.” Without any thought to what I said, Marlon did as I asked and we jumped out of the truck and began helping this guy pick up his spilled load. Keep in mind that this was about 12 noon and people were everywhere walking their dogs, picking up groceries and just the day to day bustle of life.
Not one person stopped to help this guy out.

As Fred, Marlon and I walked up, we began to help in the clean-up process. The driver looked at us for second in what seemed to be amazement coupled with relief in our actions, then turned back and continued to pick up his shipment, this time with a sense of renewed confidence. As we picked up cans of Dr. Pepper, Rockstar, Sobe and Coke, our team of four soon became five, and five soon became six, until we had a total of eight random people helping us in our effort to correct an unfortunate situation.

After the last can of soda was picked up, the driver walked up to me and extended his hand in thanks, “I wish there was some way I could repay you guys, but I can’t,” were his exact words. I looked at him and said “don’t worry man, I know you would do the same,” as we walked back to the truck.

Now I don’t know if that were true, that he would do the same if it had happened to me first. But seeing the look in his eyes after we had helped him, gave me no doubt that now he would “pay it forward,” from here on out.

This moment has taught me, that in order to change the world we have to start with the small things. There are so many things in the world that are out of our hands and out of our control that it is easy to think that nothing can be changed. Assisting an elderly person, letting a driver squeeze in, or helping a delivery guy pick up his load may seem tiny and meaningless, but they’re everything to the individual that it’s helping.

A lot has happened to me in this city, and has given me reasons to want to leave, but it’s moments like these that give me faith; that no matter how bad things can get, as long as you continue to lead by example of humanity and helping your fellow man we can all change the world.

A team of four quickly turned into eight, it’s that simple. Pay it Forward.

Love, Will

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I think this is the kind of community in which I want to be a part, and I think this is the kind of community we are trying to build with this blog and some other ones (like Pocket Changes) to make small and purposeful, yet powerful choices that create a definite marker of change in our society.

I am he as you are he as you are me and we are all together. It all starts with you [me].

0 replies on “Pay It Forward…”

There’s another story that I like real well that is in a similar vein. I read it first in Michael Pollan’s Omnivore’s Dilemma, and then a variation of it in Jonathan Safran Foer’s Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close.

A rabbi was talking with God about Heaven and Hell.

“Come,” said God. “Walk with me, and I will show you Hell.”

And together they walked into a room of cold, rough stone. In the center of the room, atop a low fire, sat a huge pot of quietly simmering stew. The stew smelled delicious, and made the rabbi’s mouth water. A group of people sat in a circle around the pot, and each of them held a curiously long-handled spoon.

The spoons were long enough to reach the pot; but the handles were so ungainly that every time someone dipped the bowl of their spoon into the pot and tried to maneuver the bowl to their mouth, the stew would spill.

The rabbi could hear the grumblings of their bellies. They were cold, hungry, and miserable.

“And now,” God said, “I will show you Heaven.”

Together they walked into another room, almost identical to the first. A second pot of stew simmered in the center; another ring of people sat around it; each person was outfitted with one of the frustratingly long spoons. But this time, the people sat with the spoons across their laps or laid on the stone beside them. They talked, quietly and cheerfully with one another. They were warm, well-fed, and happy.

“Lord, I don’t understand,” said the rabbi. “How was the first room Hell; and this, Heaven?”

God smiled. “It’s simple,” he said. “You see, they have learned to feed each other.”

That reminds me of a story that was paraphrased as something like… a guy was at the beach with others trying to pull beached dolphins back into the water. a reporter asked why they were going to such lengths and effort to pull these animals back into the water when they would likely just die. Why does it matter? and the guy said “it matters to the dolphin”.

Even little things that we think don’t really matter may have a life and death impact on someone or something else, so just because it may not be critical to you, it may be critical to another.

I believe in practicing random acts of kindness whenever the opportunity presents itself. And the one who wins most when I do is me.

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