small measures with ashley: paying it forward


Image from Good Life Zen.

I’ll admit it, I’m a sucker for emotionally evocative commercials. Folgers’ ad about Peter, the older brother returning from Africa and sharing a cup of Joe with his little sister — I’m looking at you. (Sheesh, I even got choked up just uploading the YouTube video!) Publix ditty about families gathering around the Thanksgiving table, holding hands and expressing gratitude — you know what I’m talking about. Those two Liberty Mutual pieces on paying random acts of kindness forward — you know what you do to me. No matter the context of what I might be doing at the time these advertisements air, once they’re rolling across my screen, I get misty-eyed. And don’t even get me started on what happens during well-curated movie previews . . .

In the States, we’ll be celebrating Thanksgiving next Thursday. This is the day of the year most-often associated with excessive food consumption and awkward family get-togethers. The true intention of the holiday, however, is the expression of gratitude. From a good harvest, to loved ones, to good health and more, Thanksgiving is the time when we pause, reflect on all that has occurred in our lives during the previous year, and find the jewels among the stones, the roses among the thorns.

The last commercials I mentioned, the Liberty Mutual ones, present a topic I’d like to discuss in today’s Small Measures. While we might think only of those with whom we’re directly acquainted on Thanksgiving and the gestures of kindness they’ve shown us, it is also those strangers we rub shoulders with daily who enrich our lives in quiet, yet profound ways. Last year around this time, I discussed expressing our gratitude backward, or returning a kind deed done to us with a direct acknowledgment. This year, I’d like to propose also paying our thankfulness forward, especially to those we might not know.

I’ve mentioned here before that, in my estimation, a well-designed life (this is a design blog, after all!), considers the whole person, from external home and internal health to emotional and psychological states. For me, paying kindness forward fosters the sort of balanced, nourished and enriched life I want to cultivate. Two famous axioms really drive the “pay it forward” ethos home: Gandhi’s “Be the change we wish to see in the world” (if you want to shed some tears yourself, check out this colossally goodwill-inspiring piece) and the so-called Golden Rule, urging us to “Do unto others as you would have others do unto you.”

While today’s Small Measures doesn’t show you how to tea-stain a lampshade, make herbal sun tea, keep chickens or discuss an ancient aesthetic, it does offer a few suggestions, from me to you, on ways to enrich the lives of the otherwise anonymous sentient beings with whom we share this planet. They are small, simple, easy gestures, none requiring a large expenditure of time or money. Here goes:

CLICK HERE for Ashley’s list of 15 “Paying It Forward” ideas after the jump!

1. Buy the coffee for the person in line behind you at the drive-thru.

2. Pay the fare for the car behind you at the toll booth.

3. Pay the entrance fee for the car behind you at a beach or park.

4. Swipe your Metrocard for the person behind you at the turnstile.

5. Buy the movie ticket for the person behind you in line (at a matinee!).

6. Offer your seat on the subway or bus to a senior, pregnant woman or person with special needs.

7. Help a mother (or father) with an infant or toddler put groceries in her (or his) car.

8. Leave gathered wildflowers on the windshield of your neighbor’s car.

9. Scrape the ice off the windows of other cars on your street.

10. Help someone with a flat tire or impaired vehicle (even if only to offer use of your cell phone, should they lack one).

11. Write a letter of praise to the manager of a store detailing the outstanding service you received from one of their employees.

12. Compliment someone’s smile, eyes, hair, outfit, shoes, etc. (This is one of my MOST favorite things to do!)

13. Allow someone with fewer items to get ahead of you in the check-out line.

14. Let the driver with their turn signal on pull out in front of you.

15. Donate blood.

Sarah Ryhanen of Saipua and D*S fame has been running a truly inspirational free floral bouquet giveaway over the past few weeks for Manhattan or Brooklyn residents. Perhaps businesses in financially solvent positions could host similar giveaways. Want some more ideas? Here are 70.

In the weeks leading up to the frenzied, excessive, fabulous, festive holiday season, taking a minute to give freely of yourself, even when no one asks it of you, is a small measure with enormous repercussions. What goes around truly comes around.

What about you? Got any tales of random kindness to tell or ideas to share? I’d love to hear! — Ashley

  1. Parris says:

    This is one from my blogging friends. When cutting coupons and saving big on your grocery bill (and they do) they suggest leaving coupons you don’t use, perhaps for baby diapers and other such items, on the shelves for others who could use them. Help them out a bit as well.

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