Written by Carissa Abazia

“If you have the power to make someone happy, do it. The world needs more of that.” – Unknown

I was 10 years old when I first learned the concept of “paying it forward.” It was toward the end of lunch with my dad, and as we were preparing to get up from the table, I noticed an elderly woman crying over her dish of pasta. Moments later, our waitress came to our table. She had a big smile on her face, handed my dad his change and said: “You just made that woman’s day.  When I told her she didn’t need to pay for her lunch, she just stared into her plate and said ‘I think my life is turning around. This is a sign that things will get better for me.’” My dad smiled back at our waitress and said: “Helping others is a simple concept. Have a good day, miss.”

This was not the first time my dad paid for someone’s lunch.

I have thought of this encounter many times since it occurred. There are so many lessons to be learned, but the principal one is this: Kindness is a simple concept, and incredibly impactful.

Observing and receiving help, or even something as simple as a smile, can spread positivity and set a torrent of generosity in motion. Here are a few of my favorite “pay it forward” stories.

Compliment a stranger

My friend, Erin, got the courage to tell a woman on the streets of Spain that she had a beautiful face, and asked if she could capture it. The woman’s response was a huge smile and a cheerful nod.

Complimenting someone you don’t know can seem so trivial, but it has the power to completely reshape someone’s day for the better.

The “just because” gift

Last year, a friend sent me a letter in the mail “just because.” It was the best surprise after a long and hard day at work – a simple gift received in the most crucial moment.  I will always remember those warm and fuzzy feelings I got when I sat on my couch in tears as I read her kind words.

Lend a helping hand

We can’t read each other’s minds. Many people put on a happy face, even when their world is flipped upside down. In October of 2017, fires broke out in my hometown destroying thousands of buildings and leaving many people homeless. My best friend’s parents lost their home, and she asked if they could stay with me for a couple of months as they figured out what to do next. Without hesitation, I said: “yes.”

About a week into their stay, my friend approached me in my room, tears rolling down her face and clearly emotionally exhausted. She looked at me and said: “I can’t thank you enough for helping my family. I love and appreciate you with all of my heart.”  I will never forget that moment. The effect of a simple gesture not only brought us closer, it made a huge impact on her parents’ wellbeing.

I will leave you with this.  If you receive or observe an act of help, you become more likely to help others, even if your own action won’t be directly reciprocated or rewarded. Remember that the next time you stop to help (or compliment) a stranger; you may be helping not only this one particular individual but also potentially many others.

And who knows? In the end, maybe what goes around will come around.


Photo Credit: @erincolesully


Thanks for reading!

Carissa Abazia