White Datura

Pay it backward

Did I just get this phrase backward? No, I think not.

Today I am digging a white Datura for an elderly lady in our church who admired it from one of my photos. She mentioned that she would love to grow these fragrant plants again. Her yard help accidentally mowed hers down several years ago. She did offer me an iris that she said she didn’t think I had, but I laughed and said, “I have ALL the irises!”

It will be so nice to put a smile on the beautiful face of this sweet lady, and for her to have something that brings back good memories for her.

I’ve been asked many times why I do things to help people who may never have a chance to pay me back. The term “paying it forward” never really comes to mind. Why not?

Maybe it’s because I’ve already had so many people be there for me when I needed someone desperately.

For me, it’s not the hope that someone will appreciate the kindness I do for them and pass it on, it’s paying back a debt of gratitude for kindnesses received in the past.

The morning after my move into my first apartment with only a 3 foot by 3 foot box of all my earthly goods, the preacher’s wife paid me a visit with some things she picked up at some yard sales. Cooking utensils, dishes, and even an alarm clock made things easier in the coming days! She even brought a blanket. But it was my heart that was warmed even more than my then-skinny limbs!

It wasn’t so much the luxury of being able to cook my food instead of subsisting on yogurt eaten with a plastic spoon, but the knowledge that there was someone who cared — that made all the difference.

Time and space would not permit a full accounting of the many kind acts that followed me during my adult life. The kindly aunt who paid for my dental bills when I was a teenager was a different story; but it’s easier to help a child than an adult.

“Why would you do yard and garden work for someone for free?” I was asked once. Well, maybe the person who needed it was displaced by a tornado; maybe her husband was out of work and her homeowner’s association was harassing her; maybe she has done yard work for me; maybe I just think she needs a friend right now.

In the end, it doesn’t matter. Life isn’t fair. It is quite possible that I’ve done more for others than has ever been done for me, but that isn’t the point either.

This is why I call it “paying it backward.” Go back; way, way back. Yes, before you or I were born.

God knew we would need a Savior! He didn’t wait until we needed him, the Father had planned to send his Son at the right time to make the ultimate sacrifice for our salvation. We could never hope to repay so great a gift! If I spent every waking hour being kind to all of God’s children, it would not be enough.

So yeah; I’m still “paying it backward.” If someone is blessed by a small act of kindness done by me, and pays it forward to another soul, that’s great. If not, I was already in debt anyway – and still am – for the incomparable gift I’ve already received.

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Christine (Tina) Berglund

Christine lives in middle Tennessee with her husband Gary, a.k.a. "The Yard Boy." They have served churches in eight states where Gary has preached full-time most of their married lives. The children have flown the nest, but they "baby" their plants now, and even get to visit grandchildren once in a while.

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