Archive for August, 2015

Paying It Forward and the Art of Enrollment

Friday, August 28th, 2015

Ralph Waldo Emerson once wrote,
“In the order of nature we cannot render benefits to those from whom we receive them, or only seldom. But the benefit we receive must be rendered again, line for line, deed for deed, cent for cent, to somebody.”
A few weeks ago my 24 year old son read an article to me while I prepared dinner. It was not the type of news story that draws his attention. He follows world news and politics closely but not much for the human interest stories.
The story was about a 75 year old man in Oregon who lived in an old home on a street filled with the bustling activity that is every neighborhood. Day after day people walked by on their way to the park, grocery, school and community center. An inspector, Josh, who was working across the street observed two high school boys walking by the property on their way to school one morning. Josh had been working across the street for 4 weeks and waved to the man every day but had not talked with him. One of the boys remarked about what an ugly house it was and that someone should burn that house down. He sits on the porch all day long. They said it loud enough for him to hear. “Josh” looked at the old man sitting on the porch with his head down and it got him thinking.

He went to a local lumber company and asked if they would be willing to donate paint for his house to make it look better. They agreed. Then he posted to his Facebook page asking if anyone wanted to help that Saturday and volunteer their time to paint this gentleman’s house. The neighbor looked at his garage where he had just stored unused paint from painting an outbuilding. He approached the old man and asked if he would allow him to use up his remaining paint and help. “I was brought up to treat people with respect, respect your elders,” Josh told a local newspaper. “He didn’t deserve that. I had to do something.  The old man, who had some mobility issues, was floored by the offer to help. “He was speechless,” Josh said.

Art of Enrollment in action!
He asked a few railroad coworkers to help with the labor, and also asked for volunteers in a post on Facebook. That post was shared more than 6,000 times. When Saturday came, over 100 people showed up at 8:00 a.m. to paint. The fresh coat of paint now gives the old man a sense of pride as he sits on the porch. Every time I see him, I wave to him still. He just smiles from ear to ear.

What’s The Risk?
The risk is dwelling on the negative. What would the outcome be if Josh would have ignored the teenager’s comments and judged the old man and his house?
It’s easy to miss the essence of what Emerson said. You really can’t ever pay someone back. Think about it. Can you really ever make things square with your parents, teachers, coaches, and others who looked out for you? But that doesn’t mean we don’t owe it line for line, deed for deed, cent for cent. And it doesn’t mean we can’t try.
And despite what Emerson said about not being able to directly repay someone, I’d sure like to try. Would you join me in doing a kind deed for someone else today? Maybe leave an extra big tip for someone that is deserving. Buy the lunch of the gal or guy sitting alone at a restaurant, or a celebratory glass of champagne to the couple having their anniversary dinner. Pick a family that is struggling to make ends meet, and have groceries delivered. Offer babysitting to the family with 4 kids so that the parents can have a few hours alone. There is no risk in that!