You Need To Pay It Forward

Sometimes I worry about the way in which people use social media and how far it can reach. About a week ago a Facebook post "went viral" (i.e. was shared beyond the immediate friendship group and gained a lot of interest); it told of a young mum who wanted to track down a kind stranger after receiving a note from him on a train.  

[Quick recap: a man handed a young mum a note scribbled on a scrap of paper congratulating her on the way in which she was raising her child after watching her encourage his manners, her interaction with him and the way in which she offered up his seat to someone on the train when her son fell asleep. The kindly stranger also included a £5 note with his message and told her to buy herself a drink.  It's important to understand that he gave her this gift as he was leaving the train and made every effort not to identify himself]

The media quickly became involved with reports of the Facebook post appearing in many digital versions of online newspapers, the young lady appeared in a morning magazine show on television and everyone wanted to track down the kindly stranger. Other than his handwriting and knowing which station he alighted at, there were no other clues.

For whatever reason (peer/media pressure?), the mystery stranger has identified himself and the whole of the UK stands up and applauds him. There has been an emotional reunion between him and the young mum (with her son) live on the same morning magazine show and it's a lovely happy ending. 

Or is it?

There's two levels to this.  As a parent, it is my job to teach my child(ren) good manners, to interact with them, to ensure that they show respect to their elders. And that's all that this young mum was doing - and doing it very well by all accounts. In an era where we are exposed, via the very same media, to the horrors of what goes on behind closed doors, it makes me want to hug my off-spring a little bit closer and it makes me proud that they are fine, upstanding humans and I know that was because of the way in which I raised them. That's not a brag, it's a matter of fact. 

The second level is that random acts of kindness are just that and don't need a national campaign to hunt down the provider to say thank you.  A random act of kindness is opening a door for someone and letting them pass through before you (there's also a huge amount of manners involved in that too), a smile at a passer-by on a grotty day, leaving a car park ticket that has an hour left on it stuck to the machine, paying for a coffee for the next person in the queue, the picking of a few flowers from the garden and giving them to a neighbour... and I'm sure you can think of many other random acts of kindness. 

If you're the lucky recipient of a random act of kindness, by all means brag about it on your Facebook page or your Twitter account - it warms the heart of every single person who reads it.  But do you want to know the best way to repay a random act of kindness?  It's simple - pay it forward. Go forth and continue the chain of kindness and create a minute or two of happiness in someone else's life - just not through a national media campaign. It will return to you eventually in ways that you can't imagine

(P.S. Here's when it happened to me)