I was asked to be a panel member recently. It was to involve sitting round a table with other folk, and giving my take on the theme of “Paying it Forward”. Paying it forward is absolutely right up my street. It’s the very beating heart of Supershoes. All our volunteers give their time and talents for free, to get to the final result of a pair of shoes specially created for a child with cancer. Supershoes represents altruism at its very best. So in theory, the idea of talking with a group of people, about a subject dear to my heart, even with an audience watching, was going to be easy-peasy, right?
Or maybe not. You see, the event was being held at Cranfield University. With an expert panel of business people, and the audience was made up of MBA students from the Business Growth Programme. These people already have degrees, or run million-pound companies. They’re a highly intelligent bunch. I don’t have a degree. Suddenly it felt daunting. I wasn’t sure that I belonged there or even that I had anything to offer.
Move forward to the day. Did I go? Of course I did. The opportunity to share Supershoes’ vision was too good to pass on. But I confess I was nervous. The thing that kept me on track was this: Supershoes is one of some 160,000 different charities who are all playing a part in dealing with the world’s problems. That’s both a huge responsibility and an honour. If our Super Volunteers are motivated enough to give their time and talent to help empower children with cancer, then I would use that as my motivation to talk from the heart about Paying it Forward.
And when you think about it, we can, and do, pay it forward all the time. If you send a loving text to a friend going through a tough time; if you knock on your elderly neighbour’s door and pop in for a chat to check they’re ok; if you turn up on a windy field to cheer on a sports team; if you hold the door open for someone; give someone some change for the parking meter; you are paying it forward. Paying it forward doesn’t have to be a grand gesture. It doesn’t have to cost much, or anything, in terms of hard cash. The thing is, we can all do it. All it takes is awareness and kindness. And regardless of how many certificates you have on your wall, or letters after your name, you can always be kind and aware.
I met some great people at Cranfield that day. And I was reminded of something valuable. There are many different types of intelligence, including emotional intelligence. The ability to see where we can be of help to others and work out a (in the case of Supershoes) unique way to do that is emotionally intelligent. I was proud to be able to explain that concept to the panel and audience, because I could see the light bulbs coming on, as people realised that Paying it Forward is something that’s accessible to everyone. It’s a concept that needs to be promoted in these challenging times, and at Supershoes, we do it so well.
Take five and have a think. How could you pay it forward this month?
With peace, love and gratitude