Paying It Forward

Motorists recently enjoyed a friendly turn of fate in Lowell, Michigan. As drivers were pulled over by the police for small infractions (such as having tinted windows that were too dark), officers began a pleasant chat instead of grumpily issuing a citation.

In conversation, the officers also asked what the drivers and their kids wanted for Christmas.

The unsuspecting drivers had no idea that the officers were on a live radio, which was being broadcast to a team of shoppers ready to sprint through stores and rush over surprise purchases. Stunned drivers were overjoyed as officers handed over holiday gifts instead of speeding tickets.

Gifts included TVs, an Xbox, Legos, and other exciting items that brought tears of joy to some of the recipients.

Rather than having a negative experience with the police, this act of kindness created a positive interaction and paved the way for strong police-citizen relations in the Lowell community. A TV station that filmed the joyful surprises paid for the gifts, so not a cent of taxpayer money was consumed. The result: a creative, pay-it-forward approach to leaving a positive impact.

Police Paying It Forward

Paying it forward is not a new concept. My wife recently bought a coffee for the woman behind her in line at Starbucks, simply to create a smile and improve someone’s day. Small acts of kindness and generosity, often issued at random, can brighten even the cloudiest days.

This concept can be extended far beyond a small gift, and in turn, the results become amplified. Paying it forward by mentoring an up-and-comer in your field, for example, not only creates a new friend but also elevates your profession. Contributing your time to help disadvantaged kids learn to read, picking up slack for a colleague, or going the distance for a customer are all examples of injecting positive energy into the world.

It turns out, there is a big return-on-investment, especially when you’re not seeking one. In my experience, the more you give, the more you get. The payoff may come back to you in unexpected ways when you least expect it. Worst case, the feelings of helping others is itself a powerful reward.

Think what would happen in our organizations and community, if each of us paid it forward once a week. Little acts of unrequested generosity would begin to build on each other, creating a large and meaningful impact.

Let’s use the holiday season as a time to drive progress by helping others. Ironically, you’ll likely enjoy strong, direct benefits as a result. The next time you feel annoyed, try issuing kindness instead of a reprimand. You’ll feel much better, and you’ll be making the good folks in the town of Lowell proud.