I'm sure you've seen the movie "Pay it Forward" or have heard about the "Random Acts of Kindness" movement. Basically, they both have a similar theme about how you can change the world just by helping a few people. See, the thought is that if you do something nice for a few people, those people will do something nice for someone else and as it goes down the line, everyone will be doing nice things for others.
It's a nice sentiment in books and movies, but it's not often that you see this sort of direct change actually play out. However, with the economic troubles of the past few years, there has been a greater need for help and many everyday people have answered the call and have become heroes to others.
I was reading about a coffee shop in South Carolina that really brought this message home. One day, a woman came in and ordered a coffee, then she left a $100 bill and said that she wanted to buy coffee for the people who come in next, until the money was used up. The next customers were confused when they were told that someone else had paid for their coffee. So, they gave some money, more than their coffee would have cost, to buy coffee for the next people. Two years later, people are still donating money to buy coffee for the people behind them. Sometimes, people don't even buy anything, they just stop by to donate a few dollars to the pot.
Although many people who have received free coffee have donated, not everyone does and it doesn't matter. For people who are struggling to make ends meet, a free cup of coffee at just the right moment can give more than a caffeine pick up. Just being able to feel that you are a part of something and that other people care about you makes all of the difference some times.
Here in my little small town, a local grocery store has been struggling to stay in business. Although they are a family owned store, they are feeling the pressure that the new Food Lion has put on them. Interestingly, when I was talking with the manager, I found out that there is someone in town who gives the store $100 each month. She asks them to make two $50 gift certificates and to give them to people who are in need of groceries. The people who work in the store are familiar with almost everyone in town, and they generally know when someone is having a tough time.
The people who have received these small gift certificates haven't always been the poorest people or the people who receive other benefits. Sometimes, the small family that is struggling this week because of a unexpected bill has been the surprised recipient of the gift. Then, when they are in a better financial situation, they have donated money to pay for gift certificates for others who are in a pinch. As more people hear about it, they have also wanted to be a part of helping someone out.
It's amazing to remember that we all are a part of a community. We stand or fall together, and no matter what we might think, we are only as strong as our weakest member. Finding ways to be a part of something that helps others can help us fight depression and make the world a little bit brighter.