Pay It Forward

>PING<
You know when Facebook makes a noise and you see the notification is from someone you don’t recognize. Someone you friended when Facebook was new and you just wanted all the friends you could get. >PING< Who is this? >PING<>PING<>PING<

The message is long. Who is this!? Reading, she apologizes for being ‘creepy’, and identifies herself as someone who I went to summer camp with 12 years ago. 12 YEARS ago! An image of a chubby me in braces carrying a riding crop and mucking stalls flashes in my head. I think back to the cheers, the horse back riding lesson, being too self conscious to put my swim suit on and swim on the hot July days. I remember family style dinners and waking up before the sun to hike up the huge hill to the horse pastures.

Ashley’s e-mail begins by talking about an inspiring talk she had heard (I wondered if she’s as obsessed with TED talks as I am,) the speaker talked about the power of kindness. Ashley said my 13 year-old self had comforted her when she was homesick. That something I said impacted her not only in that moment but she had carried it with her for the last decade and a half. The idea of being open, caring and honest without fear of judgment had led her to be as compassionate as she says my 13 year old self was. I was speechless after I read the message. I had no idea how to respond. I was in shock that something I had done when I was so young had been kept close to someone’s heart for so long. I remembered the girl, I remembered  that summer, but I didn’t remember that moment.

So I thought back to a time where I felt vulnerable and someone had helped me. I wrote Ashley back, thanking her for thanking me (awkward,) and said that she had inspired me to ‘pay it forward’ and tell someone from my past how much I appreciated a small act of kindness and tell them how it had effected me. Just by acknowledging these small acts I think inspire people to continue to do them. We don’t do them for recognition or gratitude,  most of the time we don’t even know the things that may have profound influence on someone else, but I think the acknowledgment can be really powerful.

So I did. I emailed someone and thanked him. I don’t expect a response or a ‘thank you’ in return. I wanted him to know how he had made me feel on a certain day and maybe it will encourage him to think back to a time and ‘pay the thanks forward’ to someone from his past. Do me a favor and do this. Spread this love, this peace, this powerful energy–cast your web further and dig into your past (deep into it or to yesterday) and say thank you. The power of gratitude is incredible.

Buckle Back Up

When I was a kid, okay, far into my teenage years, I went to summer camp. YMCA Camp Jewel: Ranch Camp for two weeks with my best friend, Kallie, whom I’ve known since I was four. She’s one of those friends that I don’t remember not knowing—just for that reason alone she’s a keeper. But she’s pretty funny, weird and goofy too, so it works out well.

            Anyway, every year her Mom would drive us to the first day of camp and would slow the car wayyyy down so we could read the signs as we approached the entrance:

 

“Slow down”

“You’re moving way to fast”

“We’ve got to make”

“These moments last.”

 

Each line was on a different sign that was separated by about 30 feet. Kallie and I would literally be unbuckled trying to scoot the car faster so we could meet our councilor, bunkmates, and our horse for the next two weeks. (Mind you, we were really cool 15 year-olds.) Her Mom would be creeping along, going on and on about the signs, and how these next two weeks are going to “fly by,” blah blah blah get us to summer camp freedom!!

I get it now. I still find myself on the edge of my seat trying to scoot myself through to the next adventure, but now I’m consciously telling myself to slow [the effffff] down. I could get even more cliché and remind you (while reminding myself,) that “Life is a journey not a destination.” but that would be lame and predictable and typical expat-traveler talk.

As I wrap up my time in Kamphang Phet, Thailand and embark on a solo backpacking trip through Thailand, Vietnam and Cambodia I’m scared that I’m going to rush through it. That I’m going to be riding a motorbike up a mountain and be wondering what the beach is going to look like next week. Or be lying on the beach and thinking about my friends that I cannot wait to see when I land in Oregon in May—

My goal, my one and only goal for traveling these upcoming months is to slow down. I can talk a good talk about doing this, but I know that I will struggle. I know that this idea of taking it all in, not looking so far ahead that I forget where I am, is going to be extremely difficult for me. But this is a challenge that I’ve put myself in and will learn to sit back in my seat and read each sign, sing the song, look at the mountains and notice the sand between my toes.