I’ve always been pretty good at paying back. When I say “pretty good” what I mean is if I borrow money I pay it back (except for my parents – sorry about that) and if I borrow a book I give it back (except for my sister’s copy of “Eat, Pray, Love” which she is never getting back) and if I receive a dinner invitation I reciprocate and if someone invites me to spend a week with them at their villa in Italy I bring lots of wine and cook all the meals. For the record, this has not yet happened but I’m just putting it out there in case the Universe is listening.
Paying it back seems natural and honorable. But what about paying it forward? Honorable yes but perhaps not quite so natural. As children we are not “trained” to do good deeds with no hope of compensation. It is something we must experience, enjoy, teach ourselves and then do it again … and again.
Well … karma can be a wonderful thing. But that’s not the real reason. We don’t pay it forward in the hopes that something magical will befall us due to our selfless altruism. Indeed I might purport that is the opposite of benevolence that leads us to pay it forward. We do it because it makes US feel good.
And then if karma shows up to bless us, even better. But this is no bargain with the gods. There is no guarantee. So we do it just because we can.
As I prepare to move house yet again I am reminded of my first two moves. Move #1 was into a new build so the place was contractor-clean. But even though my sales agreement stipulated no such thing, I left my townhouse professionally polished. Down to every shelf and cupboard. I also left a bottle of wine on the kitchen counter with a card wishing the new occupants well. It felt nice and it felt right.
Weeks went by and my vagabond cat kept wandering the five blocks back to our former abode. The new tenants eventually did the math, called the realtors, got my number, called me and said “We think your orange cat wants to live with us.” Turns out he didn’t. He was just … um … mentally and directionally challenged. Now they could have just said “Shoo!” and ignored him but they did not. They went above and beyond.
I’d like the think karma was at work here.
When I left my second home and moved to a new city I again left my place sparkling. Alas my new (old) house was anything but. Not only had it not been cleaned, the owners had actually left junk behind. Baby formula. Jars of pickles. An old sleeping bag, some sticks of furniture and a garage full of crap.
I refused to get upset. I simply informed my lawyer, held up closing until they ponied up $500, loaded up a truck and carted all the stuff to the dump. Sure it was a hassle and sure it wasn’t my responsibility but I had every intention of starting my new life in my new town positively.
So now you may be saying “Well, see! Paying it forward doesn’t always work! Sometimes you do good and get kicked in the shins!”
No doubt true.
But Move #4 was also into a pristine property. As was Move #5. Both times what I left behind was what I entered. Hotel-room clean homes.
So I got to thinking … maybe paying it forward doesn’t always reap immediate rewards. Except of course for that “Damn, I feel good!” reward. But maybe when we pay it forward by habit we set the stage for it to habitually be paid back to us? Maybe that’s how the Universe works? They say it’s an echo. What you send out, you get back. All I know is I won a lot of super-clean houses and only one notsomuch.
So now we ready ourselves for yet another change. We already have possession of the new property and I can tell you with great glee that when we took said possession said new property was immaculate. Not only was it hotel-room clean, the former owner left us paint. And flooring. And other gizmos and thingies that we might need. Everything was labelled and beautifully presented. Plus he left us the three bar stools that had shown with the house and which we desperately needed.
Yep. He sure as heck paid it forward big-time.
So now we do the same. Years ago on one of those moves I gifted a friend with my funky kitchen table. It didn’t work in my new place, she loved it and needed it so it was a no-brainer. I also gifted another friend with my custom-made leather sofa. Again, didn’t work for me, she was in need and so she got it.
A few years ago sofa-girl sent me a note telling me that she had finally bought the sofa of HER dreams and had therefore paid my sofa forward to a young couple starting out. She knew I would appreciate the gesture. And I did.
Then a few weeks ago kitchen-table girl told me she had finally purchased the table of her dreams and did I want the old one back?
Well golly gee, just a few days before another dear friend had informed me that her son was looking for a kitchen table. Bingo-bango and he’s got the table and three old broads are happy.
Today a lovely woman came to buy a day-bed we no longer require. When she realized we were moving she told me she loved ALL of our stuff and asked if anything else was for sale. I replied “Sorry, no, the rest is coming with us.”
As she was leaving, filled with gratitude for her sweet deal (hey, I’m a soft touch) I looked up at the huge bouquet of fake flowers that adorns our front hallway. Now if you’ve ever put together a HUGE bouquet of (good quality) fake flowers you know it ain’t cheap. But I looked at her and said “Do you like those flowers?” And she answered with a big grin “I love those flowers!”
And so she took them home. For free. Incredulous. Thrilled. Grateful.
And I spent the afternoon smiling. Because it felt so good.
Will it come back to me? How will it come back to me? When will it come back to me if it ever comes back to me?
Who knows? Who cares?
Today it felt really damn good.
And just so you know I’ve already lined up an amazing cleaning service to leave this house unimpeachable when we depart. Even though the sales agreement says “swept clean”. And yes, there will be a bottle of wine on the kitchen counter.
Because paying it forward is how I roll. And you just never know what tomorrow will bring.