Happy New Year – Pay It Forward

I’ve noticed a number of 2010-summary type blog posts the past week. I felt a bit of peer pressure – should I do one? 🙂 Then two tiny incidents happened today, and I felt a need to share.

The Supermarket Queue

Here in Denmark, supermarkets close early on December 31st. I went to the shop to pick up a few necessities (shops are closed tomorrow) and a few treats. Just as it was my turn, I realized the man behind me was buying only 1 item. I told him to go ahead of me in the queue. He was with his son who was about 8 years old, and they probably wanted to get home quickly. He was surprised and grateful and cut in just as the clerk was about to scan my milk. When he paid, he looked back at me and said thank you again, and I wished him a happy new year.

I let people get in front of me a lot. I have gotten very zen about queues in supermarkets. I sometimes enjoy music on my iPhone or read tweets from friends as I stand there. I don’t remember when this started – years ago – but I am rarely in a hurry when I am in a supermarket, so why should I stress about it. It’s almost a game to make other people happy by letting them in front of me. I wouldn’t do it for someone with a gazillion things in their cart! The moment dictates the giving. The surprised smiles I get are like cool cash, especially from little old ladies.

The world might be a tad more relaxed if we could all find the time to give room to others now and then.

The Homeless’ Newspaper

I often see a “Hus Forbi” salesperson outside supermarkets. Hus Forbi is the name of the Danish newspaper produced to give a job to homeless people and to raise awareness about the homeless. I have bought them on occasion, but I don’t read them because I simply don’t get around to it. I dislike buying it only to throw it in the recycle bin. I do want to support them, and I think it defeats the purpose if you just give the seller the money that the newspaper costs. As I come out of the supermarket today, I rush past a Hus Forbi seller standing at the door. For each step I take, I get annoyed at wanting to give, but not wanting to buy a newspaper. I had just bought a package of nice, good quality “kransekage”, a Danish marcipan-cake-treat that is eaten at this time of year, especially on New Year’s Eve. I turned around and went back to the seller, and I blurted out a little speech.

“I’d like to support your cause, but I never get around to reading the paper. Why don’t you take this for yourself and have a little treat with your friends tonight?” At that, I handed him the kransekage package. “Happy New Year”, I added. He stammered a flabbergasted thank you and happy new year back at me, and I walked away.

My biggest fear was that my action would be patronizing somehow, but I honestly meant it well. I have some bags at home ready to give to the Salvation Army next week. I believe in sharing and recycling, and I also believe in supporting some causes simply because I have and the subject of the cause doesn’t. For example, I “sacrified” 3 lattés at some café so that I could join Masanga’s Friends. For the price of 3 lattés, this organization is able to perform 3 hospital operations in this town in Sierra Leone. Of course I can do without those silly lattés, but they should not do without an operation. I can change someone’s life because I hand some money to someone in Denmark who arranges for it to make a big difference in Sierra Leone. Handing kransekage is not the same thing. Kransekage is a luxury, an extra, and I can easily do without it. This particular version was made by a really nice bakery. I could imagine that the shelters around town get the less expensive version, if any, to add to their hot meals for the homeless. Why shouldn’t this guy be able to indulge for once? It was really about being nice to another human being. That’s how I get my jollies.

Happy 2011

I started using Twitter at the end of 2008, but I think it has really grown on me and for me in 2010. I didn’t know that would happen when I saw this sunrise on 2 January 2010.

My photo of a winter sunrise

Through the @stcaccess account, I’ve had the honor and pleasure of getting to know amazingly nice and wonderful people – and even meeting them (swoon!) in real life! The same can be said for my own account at @kmdk. I enjoy great discussions in real life and on blog posts because of these friendships. Yes, friendships – the majority have gone beyond acquaintances, even the long-distance never-met-them people. Incredible as that may seem. When I discover congratulations or sympathies are due, I give them gladly and genuinely.

It is the little things that count. Rings in water, ripples, flapping butterfly wings, etc. Pick your own metaphor.

Thanks to everyone I know for letting me do these little, sometimes unseen, things. You make me happy. I can only encourage everyone to try it. A lot of nice, little things can add up to a quite a number of nice, big things. That should make for a pleasant 2011.

Happy New Year!

3 replies on “Happy New Year – Pay It Forward”

  1. Couldn’t agree more with everything.
    Supermarket qeues – what’s the rush? Even with small kids, it can turn into storytime for them, and maybe the lady behind us too. Why throw away precious minutes of our lives away, as though they were trash, and not worth enjoying in some way?

    I rarely buy Hus Forbi either. But I gladly dole out mandarins or ice cream in the summertime, after I’ve gone shopping. I don’t think they mind, I think they appreciate the variety from the usual “no thanks” without eye contact at that!

    See you on the other side!

  2. I love doing things like that, but I don’t do them as often as I should. I’ll have to make a point of it for a while to see if I can build some good habits!

    Happy new year!

    Jen

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