Growing up in Westchester County, NY, I was fortunate enough to be able to visit Manhattan pretty frequently. Although “the city” has many wonderful places to explore, Fifth Avenue has always seemed extra special to me. During the holidays, all the shop windows are decorated, especially Saks Fifth Avenue, and Rockefeller Center has its majestic tree surrounded by angels and other festive decorations.
For me, I like walking on Fifth Avenue throughout the year and try to figure out where people are headed. Some are in business attire so they are probably going to work, but it is the ones that are not so obvious that pique my curiosity. I listen very carefully for different accents and I notice which shopping bags they carry. If they are taking pictures, I usually offer to take a few for them and I always ask where they are from. The stories are always interesting and the people are always appreciative that a New Yorker would stop and take their picture.
Shopping in Saks can be an experience just in itself. A long time ago, my friend and I were browsing the clothing racks when we overheard a young girl exclaiming to her father that how dare some of these people come into such an expensive store when it was so obvious to her that these people could not afford the items. Her father calmly explained that these people she was ridiculing may indeed have the necessary money and that she was being very unjust in labeling them. I never forgot that incident and that may be why I never hesitate to interact with others on the streets of Manhattan.
So if you are the type that “pays it forward” do you subconsciously choose organizations and/or people that may be able to do something for you in return? Or do you just do it to make someone feel better or help a charitable organization? Ideally we would all like to think we do the latter but I do question the motives of some. I recently was part of a panel discussion for seniors at a university. One of my fellow panel members clearly enjoyed doing this and had actually been there the weekend before for another event. He came to this event fully prepared with notes, etc. and obviously this brought him much joy. It was not only evident to me but to the students. He made the experience that much more interesting and they clearly appreciated his effort. I learned a lot from him that day including the subtle things like his smile lighting up the room.
Next time you come into contact with someone, take a moment and think about how you can “make their day.” No matter how bad your day is, a little kindness can go a long way. It will probably also make you feel better. Even a smile, as mentioned before, can make the difference. Try to extend yourself to at least one person every day and see how your life changes. You may be amazed by their reactions but that is what makes it so exciting.