Ryan Hyde came up with the idea for the book after two men helped put out a fire in her car's engine block. In shock,she just sat in the vehicle, watching the smoke pour in from under the dashboard, scared to get out of the car in the middle of the night in LA's Echo Park neighborhood.
Ryan Hyde recounted how she saw the men approach her vehicle, one carrying a blanket. She had every expectation that she would be hurt by these two strangers. What unfolded would change the direction of her entire life. The men used the blanket to put out the fire, and had already called the fire department. They helped. In the resulting confusion, of fire trucks, tow trucks, and police reports, the two men left without giving Hyde a chance to thank them for saving her life.
The need for closure eventually led to the idea for the Pay It Forward campaign - instead of "repaying" a good turn, you can pay it forward to someone who needs your help. Ryan says that when you have received something - whether it is a great or small effort on the part of the giver - it will then be much easier for you to give something to someone else.
In the lecture, the audience also talked about how the principle works in the negative. The media often recounts how a child raised by an abuser will grow up to abuse others. For me, this example (though I know it can be true) is extreme. What troubles me more is the role modeling that happens in the "middle" space. The everyday acts of emotional violence that people act out on one another that, by society's standards, are just a "normal" part of life.
Things children are supposed to learn to cope with - emotional blackmail, teasing at home or at school, parents who withdraw their "love" if you don't do the right thing or parents who cling to their children so they don't have to be alone. Parents who project their addictions or disappointments onto their kids, teachers and caregivers who look the other way. Adults who feel compelled to point out their friends' weak spots in front of everyone, who can't seem to forget things that are better left in the past. Even those who mean well get easily overwhelmed by the need in the world and put up the blinders to the needs of others.
By coincidence, I have been reading a very good book by Harville Hendrix called Keeping the Love You Find. It's a very thoughtful book about how the love you experienced in childhood influences the way you give and receive love as an adult.
You see, one of the things I had been noticing about myself - it will probably seem funny to you - is that whenever I do yard work, I become extremely anxious. For the first three years of country life, I wouldn't work outside at all. Finally, I decided to help out but only because I "needed the exercise", but I still second guess my decisions about where to put the leaf piles or whether or not I should really pick up the dead sticks myself or wait for Mike.
I enjoy the work if I am with Mike but if I'm alone, there is this whole worried conversation going on in my head about whether or not I'm raking "properly." I realized one day that I am WAITING FOR MY FATHER TO COME OUT AND YELL AT ME as he often did when I was a kid. Obviously, this was not the "normal" yelling of a "normal" parent.
Maybe yard work seems small, but Hendrix argues that certain consistent behaviors at certain times in a child's life can dramatically alter kids' perceptions about their self-worth. Inconsistency can disturb a child's emotional development event more. Catherine Ryan Hyde said something like this in her talk. The way we perceive ourselves and the power we have in the world is "talked into us, yelled into us, you learn quickly what not to say." And it informs the rest of your life.
Thought for today: How we treat each other matters. How we treat each other in front of kids matters. How we treat kids matters the most.