Pay it forward

We talk a lot about interventions to improve people’s mental health. At Headspace Guildford we see lots of people struggling with their mental health. Here’s an intervention you don’t need a doctorate to administer.

Once I was in a cold car park in the rain (bear with me…). Armed with my bank card and my phone I was prepared to get a pay and display ticket. I was late and stressed and overloaded. I get to the machine to see it only takes cash and my heart sank. I had no change and no time to go and get some. I was all for giving up and going home.

Then a lovely lady who I didn’t know gave me the £1.50 I needed to park. She didn’t have to. I didn’t ask her. She just did a kind thing. It probably didn’t make that much difference to her, but it meant the world to me. Both practically it turned a potential disaster into a successful afternoon out, but more fundamentally it reminded me of the goodness of people and the shared humanity – she saw my distress and empathised with my situation. She was thoughtful enough to realise that she could help. I’ve never seen that lady again and she probably doesn’t know just how much I appreciated her kind gesture. She’ll also never know that I paid her gesture forwards…

When a few months later I came across someone late for a theatre show and without the change I gave him the money he needed. That’s paying it forward. If you’ve seen the cheesy film of the same name then you’ll know what I’m talking about. It’s the idea that we might do something nice for someone, not because we’ll get something from them in return. But because they might then do something nice for someone else and thus share love around the world. I know I’m an old romantic at heart, but don’t you think the world needs just a little bit more kindness?

“Never believe that a few caring people can’t change the world. For, indeed, that’s all who ever have.” – Margaret Mead

It’s not just about car parking tickets – pay it forward by doing small act of kindness or helpfulness for someone. And then hold that small talisman in heart knowing you did a good thing. (Robert Ingersoll once said ‘we rise by lifting others’).

If we all shared and experienced a bit more kindness then perhaps we’d all feel a bit better about ourselves and each other. The best cure for struggling emotionally is not medication or therapy, but a bit more kindness and care in the world. Just think what a difference you could make…

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