Pay it Forward...Pay it Back

gold coins  

I'm sure you've watched the tug-at-your-heartstrings movie, Pay It Forward, sometime in the past decade since it was released in 2000. A teacher challenges his class to do something meaningful to make the world a better place and a young boy takes the challenge seriously. When we set off aboard Nine of Cups in 2000, we envisioned having lots of adventures, seeing exotic places and interacting positively with the locals. We could never have dreamed it would be as wonderful as it has been and continues to be. We could never have imagined how generous and kind people, sometimes complete strangers, could be to us. It's First Day and at this time of year, I'm allowed to ponder and wax philosophical about good things.

In our travels and in life in general, we've found that the more we have given, the more we have received. What's been so apparent, time after time after time, is that wherever we are, when we're one-on-one with people, talking, helping, getting help, giving gifts, accepting gifts, learning, sharing … all the differences disappear. There's no religion, race, politics or nationalism. It's just people interacting with people. It's refreshing and energizing and wonderful.

It's presumptuous to think that we could just sail into a place and make it better by our mere presence or because we opted to part with some American dollars. There's no lasting impression there ... other than the notion that yachties have bucks to spread around (which most don't). Most yachties, we've observed, look for special ways to contribute to the local communities they visit, intent not only leaving a clean wake, but more importantly, leaving a lasting, positive impression with their local hosts.

We've tutored kids in the public schools of Trinidad. I taught English to marina staff in Ecuador. We've written port guides for the benefit of arriving yachties, as well as the local folks who provide services and supplies. David has repaired innumerable generators, solar panels and electronic gear in a myriad of places. He's given repair classes in thatched huts and left behind testing gear. What we've received in return was unreserved hospitality, invaluable friendships and, sometimes, lots of lettuce and bananas. We don't do it for the lettuce, believe me. Most people willingly help others if given the opportunity. And more to the point, helping others is just the right thing to do. The hard part, when you're bustling around trying to get through life, is remembering to go out of your way to pay it forward or pay it back.

Whether you're on a sailboat sailing around the world, at home taking care of kids, driving a tractor trailer or have a 9-5 desk job, there's always something you can be doing to make your little corner of the world, your community, a better place … one kind act at a time. It's the first day of the year. What better time to start. Make 2014 your Pay It Forward year. It's contagious. now I gingerly step down off my soapbox and note that on the 8th Day of Christmas, my true gave to me …

Eight bulky boat parts

Seven quests for hardware

Six shiny shackles

Five I miss you's

Four galley updates

Three e-mailed errands

Two bigger duffels

And a Christmas morning greeting on Skype