Today’s blog comes from John A. Daly, author of the Suspense Thriller, From a Dead Sleep. John explains how his life has been rewarding by connecting others. Note: This blog was originally written for the Greeley Tribune.
Several years ago, I watched the movie “Pay It Forward.” I thought it was a really good flick, but it was the message of the movie that really stuck with me. I liked the idea of performing random acts of kindness for people I didn’t know, without any expectation of the those favors ever being returned. It seemed like a small, simple way to help make the world a better place.
If the movie hadn’t come out before I was married and had a family, I probably wouldn’t have thought about it as much as I did. With more time on my hands than I really wanted, however, I began keeping my eyes open for opportunities to step in and help people when they needed it.
I found one such opportunity just a week or two later when I came upon a car wreck along I-25 in the middle of the night. This was just east of Fort Collins, beside Harmony Road. The car appeared to have actually driven off the side of the Harmony exit and was firmly stuck in a ditch – grill first – at the bottom of the adjoining hill.
I’d occasionally read of true stories in which people in desperate need of help were ignored by their fellow man, and that seemed to be what was happening that night because no other cars were bothering to stop. I did, and I felt I was doing a pretty good thing when I walked over to check on the driver’s well-being. Unfortunately, I was greeted by a wild-eyed man with alcohol on his breath who repeatedly insisted that I drive him to Denver.
Helping a DUI suspect flee a crash scene before the police arrived wasn’t exactly what I had in mind by paying it forward.
I wondered what I had gotten myself into, and I found out quickly when the guy refused to take “no” for an answer. Luckily, an advantage of me being sober was that I could run faster than he could, and I was back inside my car in no time. Watching some unhinged, inebriated guy in your rear-view mirror, chasing after you and shouting obscenities as you leave him behind in a cloud of dust doesn’t exactly instill in you a sense that you helped make the world a better place.
After that night, I decided to go ahead and shelve the whole pay-it-forward idea for a while.
Luckily, years later, I finally figured out how I am best suited to perform the service. It comes in the form of serving as a conduit for creating friendships.
What does that mean exactly? Let me explain…
Once you’re married and have a family, building new friendships isn’t always such an easy thing to do. Often, the chaos of managing a growing household and achieving an effective work-life balance doesn’t leave room for forming outside relationships.
Even when surrounded by other families who are going through the same chapter of their lives, there’s an unpleasant sense of isolationism that can take hold. You find that you just don’t have time or energy to invest in developing friendships.
This is certainly how my wife and I felt years ago. When we got married, most of my friends were still people I had met in high school down in Lakewood, and in college here in Greeley. After college graduation, I stayed in Greeley. Most of my friends did not. My wife was in a similar boat.
We just didn’t have many tight, local friendships, and that’s not a very good feeling. I think its important to have a support system.
Over the years, things slowly changed. My wife met some nice people through MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers), and we met couples around our own ages through a church we started attending. Eventually, we got to where we are now: Feeling fortunate to have an abundance of close friends who we trust deeply and enjoy being around.
Because of that contentment, I somewhere along the line began to feel as though I was being drawn to help facilitate friendships within those friendships. In other words, I felt an obligation to integrate the friends I knew from different areas of my life. I’ve found myself wanting to be very inclusionary with the people I know, introducing them to each other – especially when I recognize that some have a lot in common with others.
I’ve talked about this with my wife before, and she feels the same way. When new people begin attending our church, we’re among the first to greet them and introduce them to others. When I plan a guys night out with people I’ve known for a while, I try to also invite people I haven’t known all that long.
In this respect, I’ve found myself occasionally feeling like Chuck Woolery from Love Connection. Instead of matching up singles looking for romance, however, I’d like to think that I’m helping to bring together families. In a few cases, I feel as though the people my wife and I have introduced to each other have formed stronger friendships than the ones WE have with them. That’s just fine with me. In fact, I think it’s fantastic. It feels good to pay it forward.
I think there’s a natural tendency for people to feel protective of, and exclusionary with their friends. There was certainly a time in my life when I felt that way. Being a friendship matchmaker, however, is far more rewarding. I would recommend it to everyone I know because I really do think it, in some small way, makes the world a better place.