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“Pay it forward” is a relatively new term. When I was growing up, doing something to help someone else was just ‘the right thing to do’. It was the moral thing to do. One didn’t have to attend church to know what the “Golden Rule” was, that we should always treat others as we would like to be treated.

If you look up “the Golden Rule” online, you will find it defined as “the ethic of reciprocity”.

My husband and I try hard to treat others as we’d like to be treated. When a neighbor is having trouble, we offer to help in any way we can. We check on neighbors we’ve not seen for a few days to make sure they are okay. If a neighbor needs an errand run and we’re going in that direction, we’ll volunteer to pick up what they need. When our neighbor’s yard needed mowed and his mower wasn’t working, my husband mowed his yard for him, several times.

There’s a neighbor on the block who, for 6 years, has used his snow blower to clear the sidewalks on our whole block. He clears the sidewalks on the neighboring block as well. He’s never asked one of us to pay him for the gas or upkeep on the snow blower.

I would caution others not to expect reciprocation from others. Not everyone sees doing for others as an ethical or moral act.

I learned this lesson this Winter. I honestly didn’t have an expectation, more a hope, that if neighbors appreciated what we had done to help them, then perhaps in the future, should we need someone’s help, they might be there for us. Not so.

We’ve experienced one snow storm after another this Winter, beginning Christmas Eve. During the day, my husband works a full time job, in the evening, two nights a week he works a part time second job. When it snows, it can fall on me to clear and keep clear the deck and accessible ramp, so that I can safely get Kodiak out to the backyard where he can do his business. My husband will do his best to shovel sidewalks when he’s home, if the snow is deep enough, he’ll use his snow blower.

I recently had a stomach virus and spent 24 hours suffering, unable to keep anything in my system, dehydrated and weak. The day after, my husband came home early from work and crawled into bed, not feeling well. City snow plows had thrown everything from the street up onto the sidewalks and it was freezing. I had no choice, but to go outside and shovel sidewalks, as a result, I hurt my shoulder and neck and had asthma attacks that left me in tears.

My neighbor had shoveled their sidewalks right to the property line. Later in the day, one of those neighbors saw my post on Facebook about having shoveled the sidewalks. She scolded me, saying “You should have asked me, I’d have done it for you.”

I’m sorry… she knows I’m disabled, she knows my son is disabled, she knows we’re here alone during the day. She or her husband had cleared their sidewalks, right up to our property and stopped, so she knew ours weren’t cleared… why did I have to ask her to do it?

Couldn’t she have done it, paying forward some of the good will we’d shared with her family? Her husband didn’t have to ask my husband to mow his yard for him when his lawn mower was broken down, my husband could clearly see that he needed some help, so he took it upon himself to help his neighbor out.

Since then we’ve had two more snowfalls. Neither time, have the neighbors taken it upon themselves to clear our sidewalks. The last time, they shoveled again, right to the property line, today they haven’t shoveled their own yet.

My husband has cut the grass, many times, for a single woman who lives on our other side. Her father has a business adjacent from our backyard and she lives in a portion of that building. Often in the Summer her grass grows knee deep before her father brings the lawn mower for her to mow the yard. My husband will just buzz over with the tractor and mow it, knowing how difficult it will be for her when she finally is able to mow.

Her father knows my husband has helped out numerous times, but the last three or four Winters, he’s been out at his business front with his snow blower, with one of his employees shoveling, when I was out there, trying to remove the plowed snow from across the end of our driveway with a shovel. I can only do a few shovels full, before having to sit down. They watch me, they even make jokes about my shoveling. On one occasion the employee came over and told me he’d help me, saying his son had helped him that morning, so he’d pass it on. He then handed me a small plastic spoon, a toy, and said that’s what his son used to help him, so I could use it. He laughed his butt off at what certainly was a shocked look on my face.

I think it’s important to understand, when you decide to do something nice for someone else that it doesn’t mean they will reciprocate, it doesn’t mean they will do something out of the goodness of their heart in response to your kindness. Just because you try to be a good person and do the right thing, doesn’t mean others will treat you the same way.

Does that mean you stop doing what you believe to be the ‘right thing’? No, I don’t think so. I think you do what you know to be right, because it’s the right thing to do, not because you expect something in return, but you can’t let your feelings get hurt when others don’t extend the same kindness and courtesy to you.

This is very much an “I, Me, Mine” world.

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