There’s an old, familiar saying that states, “What goes around comes around.” Usually, people use it in a negative context, stating that people who treat others poorly will get their comeuppance in the end. In most stories, we are hoping that the villain will be punished for their wicked ways, finally getting the same sort of harsh treatment they have been doling out to the protagonists throughout the entire tale.
But that’s not the only possible interpretation of the saying. What about those people who have behaved kindly and generously? What about the communities that support us through the hard times and lift us up so that we can succeed? Sometimes, it’s up to us to make sure that support “comes around.”
All too often, in today’s busy, stressful world, we refuse to exert any effort without an ulterior motive. We want to know, “What’s in it for me?” But Albert Einstein allegedly said that “only a life lived for others is a life worthwhile.” Helping others doesn’t need to have any particular personal benefit to be worth it. And the great thing about giving back is that if we perform service without expecting anything in return, we still benefit. According to one study, 78 percent of people who volunteered over a period of 12 months said that their service helped to lower their stress levels. The same study indicated that almost all people asked (96 percent) indicated that volunteering enriched the sense of purpose they felt.
There are myriad ways of serving others, where we can focus on the benefits we can give to others rather than what we can gain ourselves. We have personal, individual opportunities each day where we can reach out to someone to help, and there are big, corporate initiatives put on by large organizations. The important thing is that everyone does what they are able.
One way to give back is by providing service to those who are unable to help themselves. For example, Lawn Doctor, a national lawn care provider that operates hundreds of franchises across the country, provides maintenance free of charge across sections of Arlington and Congressional National Cemeteries. In addition, the company began a “Green Care for Troops” initiative providing free lawn care to households where someone is serving overseas.
These types of opportunities aren’t just limited to large organizations, though. Individuals are just as capable of providing this sort of service to their friends and neighbors. If you know someone who is unable to take care of their lawn, you might be able to reach out to them and offer your assistance. And Lawn Care is just one way to provide service. If you know someone who is unable to leave the home, you could offer to pick up groceries for them. Visiting people from your community who are hospitalized can help lower their stress, fear, and loneliness of the situation. Simply keep your eyes open as you watch for opportunities to serve.
Sometimes, bad things happen, and people end up stuck in a difficult situation that they can’t seem to find their way out of. Providing emergency assistance often takes little effort on your part, but can make a huge difference in someone else’s life. In 2014, ice storms in Birmingham, Alabama left thousands of motorists stranded on the highway. The weather came suddenly, and because extreme winter weather is such a rare occurrence in the South, the city did not have the infrastructure in place to handle snow and ice.
The employees of a nearby Chick-Fil-A were stranded at their store, unable to navigate their cars through the weather. However, they noticed that the weather had trapped many of the motorists on the road, with no simple way to reach home. Realizing that many motorists had been trapped without food or water for hours, the employees began traveling up and down the nearby highway delivering hot sandwiches to the freezing drivers at no charge. When the weather continued, the restaurant opened its dining room to anyone who wanted to sleep inside a warm building, then provided a free breakfast the next morning.
While this sort of aid is on a larger scale than most people can afford to provide, it’s a good example of watching for opportunities to help those in need. If you see someone who has run out of gas, stranded on the side of the road, consider bringing some aid. Always exercise caution, of course, but don’t let fear stop you from reaching out to help someone. If someone appears ill and needs assistance getting somewhere, consider showing compassion. Think of how you would want to be treated in the same situation, then help someone in need.
Small and Simple Things
These are just two large-scale examples of ways to help others, but giving back doesn’t need to be grandiose. Kind words can ease someone’s pain. A hand to hold, a shoulder to cry on—be willing to do what you can to lift someone else. Remember, what goes around comes around, but sometimes that sort of service needs a little help “coming around.” And chances are that sometime, in the future, when you need help yourself, it will come around again.