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Stutzman: Paying it forward for help received

April 16, 2012
Mary Beth Stutzman - Inspiring A-Town , The Alpena News

Have you ever stopped to reflect and take note of all the people who have helped make your life possible? Unless you were raised by Gila monsters in the desert and live in a cave, you have had help to get where you are today.

I grew up out in the country with lots of green fields and trees in between the houses. Our parents both worked full time. Now that I'm a mom and also work full time I understand how tough it probably was for them to make sure everything is taken care of while balancing the responsibilities of employment. I know my parents had help raising my brother and I as have so many others growing up in a compassionate small town.

Before school our Dad dropped us off at a neighbor's house on the way to work so we could catch the bus. After school an uncle, aunt, cousin, or grandparent would be waiting at our house when we got off the bus until our Mom arrived. As we grew older we became involved in youth activities. Even though our parents had busy work schedules they never complained when we wanted to try a new activity. They just made it work. And it did always work out because friends and neighbors were more than willing to lend a hand. I remember the Lucas' and the Soldenski's hauling my horse all over the state so I could show and compete in 4-H events. When it came time to learn what a job was all about the Wooster's and the Kingsbury's had the perfect chores for a kid all within bike-riding distance.

When I bought my first house I was given lumber, paint, and even a window that someone no longer needed. Sure, they could have sold these things to someone else or asked me to pay for it but they knew I didn't have much and were willing to help out. When the house needed a new roof and we couldn't afford to pay a contractor, friends and neighbors were there to lend a hand.

Why are people so helpful? People are helpful because that's how people in a small town are raised. People know that if they have the time, energy, or resources to help others then that is what you do. Many people in this community would give the shirts off their backs to help others and they expect nothing in return. They know that when they really need help you'll be there for them. There are no I.O.U.'s and no future payment plans. These are just simple acts of kindness that help make life on earth possible.

When I try and write down all the people that have helped with my upbringing, my welfare, and guidance in my adult life I run out of paper. Most of these folks would never accept any compensation for their deeds and even shy away from recognition. They do these things simply because it is the right and thoughtful thing to do.

A lot of people are still like this, but as younger generations grow up in our world of increasing self-centeredness and instant gratification I fear that this kindness may dwindle. Are we still leading by example and showing our children what altruistic kindness and generosity is all about? Are we paying it forward and helping others as we have been helped?

As you go throughout your week, reflect upon all the people who have helped you during your years on this earth. Then, think about how you can pay it forward and help someone else in the same way. It could be as simple as volunteering to drive your neighbor to a medical appointment or as dedicated as lending a few hours a week to help a friend build a garage. Whatever it may be, these are the acts that distinguish us from the rest of the animal kingdom. Keep paying it forward.



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