Thursday, May 27, 2010


I usually like cliches and trite sayings. They are a fast way to sum up much knowledge and understanding in a few short words or story.

I use them in class regularly. For instance when firms have less debt than financial models would suggest as optimal we often say they are saving for a rainy day.

There is one saying you hear regularly in the volunteer disaster response business that I am not particularly fond of: Paying it forward. It is particularly popular after disasters that occur in the Southeastern US is “Paying forward it.” I have never been fond of the saying as it implies one is doing good only so that if something bad happens to you in the future, you will receive help in return for helping others. (Sort of the reverse of an “eye for an eye.”)

That said there is undoubtedly truth to it, some volunteers, especially after a disaster but most likely even in everyday service do their good works more as a down payment for future help in the event of a disaster in their area or payoff (Karma, Heaven, etc).

This return on investment may very well be true, but it just strikes me as too much a tit for tat transaction.

I got thinking about it today when I heard the phrase mentioned. And realized that service also more earthly rewards too. And from that perspective, paying it forward is really just the “saving for a rainy day”.

For instance, much of my time on earth apparently results in making people upset. I often think that if I am good at anything, it is making people upset; from family and friends, to students and University administration my daily day is most generally equal parts apologizing (which are all true, I do not mean to upset people) and reangering.

This really is not a good character trait to have. It is time consuming and stressful. When in the regular daily grind I am convinced the single word I type or say more than any other word is “sorry”. From sorry I cannot make such and such event (family/friends), to sorry I am not able to help you (BonaResponds), to sorry I put the display where you did not want it (family/the stores).

Yoga and workouts are my drugs of choice to escape from this continual cycle. But often a more effective treatment is to mentally escape to a highpoint from a past event or trip where I made a positive difference and things seem much better.

So in this way of thinking, 'saving for a rainy day' and 'paying it forward' have a lot more in common than is apparent at first glance. And I may have to reconsider my prior aversion to the saying.

Today I made a deposit in that mental savings account that should help me get though
First with the work. That was good in and of itself, although by now rubble is rubble and the incremental impact of a single day of hauling may not be enough to get through oh say a faculty meeting.

1 comment:

  1. Rubbling in 100+ (38+) degree heat or a faculty meeting? Fairly easy choice!