A story of paying it forward

salvation armyRecently I stood in the cold, relentless air in front of Market Basket in Lowell ringing bells for the Salvation Army. It was a great feeling seeing customers, who probably didn’t have a lot of money to spend, stuffing a dollar or whatever change they could manage into the slot atop the red bucket.

All the while my feet and fingers were freezing, but that didn’t matter because the spirit of Christmas was in the air. I started ringing the bells at 9:00 am and business didn’t start picking up until 10:00 am. I didn’t start feeling my feet until 11:00 am, the end of my shift.

I have one person to thank for giving me the opportunity to ring the bells for the Salvation Army, a person who personifies “paying it forward,” Kevin Willett.

I talk about the concept “paying it forward” in a career networking workshop and there seems to be some confusion among the crowd, so to simplify the concept I tell my attendees that the act of helping others creates good Karma. Further I tell them they should not expect the person you help to immediately repay the favor, because another person will step forward to help you. In fact, you may never receive reciprocation from the person you assisted.

Kevin who is the founder of Friends of Kevin, a business networking group, embraces the term “paying it forward” every Christmas season when he gathers his army of friends to ring the bells. When I asked him why he volunteers endless hours to organize this event and ring the bells himself, he told me he was once a recipient of the Salvation Army’s aid to people in need.

Kevin’s generosity extends beyond ringing the bells. His networking group not only helps businesses network, a few jobseekers are allowed to attend the meetings and deliver their elevator speeches. The goal is to expose jobseekers to business people who might have jobs to offer or know of companies that do. Kevin is a connector in the truest sense—he connects people to charities, and he connects business people to jobseekers.

Kevin spoke last year at our urban career center to a sold-out group of jobseekers eager to learn how to network. His presentation was a hit, and he made it clear that networking is a two-way street; you help someone and get help in return.

There are no hard statistics on how successful paying it forward is. Smart jobseekers simply understand that it makes common sense. It makes common sense because as you’re helping someone, another person is in the process of helping you. I’m convinced that the jobseekers who believe in paying it forward will receive the help they need. How do I know? Just ask Kevin Willett.

7 thoughts on “A story of paying it forward

  1. nataliecooper

    One thing about paying it forward is that you have to be genuine, mean it and be authentic. If you’re doing it to make yourself look better in front of your peers or because you’re doing out of a placed expectation forced upon you, then you’ll immediately be found out and come across as a fraudster. Too many people say yes, when they really mean no, and you end up feeling disappointed in that person.

    If you’re passionate, have a desire to help someone else out, then make sure when you’re paying it forward it comes straight from the heart. If you think it’s an effort, then don’t do it, because you’ll have a negative impact and will end up letting people down. Better to be honest and upfront. Only pay it forward when it strikes a chord with you, that’s when you can create the greatest impact and even help to change people’s lives.

    Thanks for this heart warming story.


  2. Vince

    I’ve done a lot of volunteering over the years but last Friday I rang the bell outside Roche Brothers in West Roxbury for the first time. I’ve lived in the area for ten years and this was the first time I did this activity. As Bob so eloquently articulated, the feeling you receive when you stand outside ringing is an unbelievable sense of gratitude for the blessings in your own life. I’m doing it again tomorrow and Thursday and it has put me in a very good frame of mind to appreciate all the good things in my life. You witness a lot of “goodness” which warms your heart and soul.


    1. Things Career Related Post author


      Nicely put. You definitely derive pleasure, as well as cold toes, from knowing that the money people give is going to help others in need. I was a bit surprised to see that the people who weren’t as well off as others, were the ones who donated the most. Thanks for reading and your eloquent comment.


  3. Pingback: My nomination for person of the year for 2013 | Things Career Related

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s