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Making Cents of it All

Posted by Nancy Weil on August 1, 2013

I read an article about a grief support group being held in an all boys high school. At a time of life when their greatest worry should be acne, girlfriends and homework, these boys all were struggling with the death of a parent. The very people we take for granted will be there for us when we get home from school or across the dinner table at night had tragically left this world too soon. These young men, who had to hold it together all day, were able to be vulnerable and show their sorrow, their fears and their anger at what had happened to them in their life. Instead of turning to alcohol, drugs or other unhealthy crutches to handle the pain, they turned to one another. Teachers would come each month to the group and share their own stories of loss, many of their stories mirrored what their students were dealing with. They saw their teachers as vulnerable, as parentless children now grown up; they saw them as human beings with a wounded heart like their own. Over pizza and chocolate chip cookies, these young men journeyed together through their grief. Over shared words and understood pain, they healed. They also were challenged to do one thing every day… use three cents.

  Three pennies was the cost of this valuable lesson and it is one we can all put into our own lives. They were instructed to take three pennies and put them in their pocket. Throughout the day they were challenged to make a difference to someone, to offer a kindness or help them in some way. Each time they completed this task, they were to take one penny and put it in their other pocket. By the end of the day the goal was to have all three cents safely harbored in the opposite pocket from which it began. The challenge began all over again the next morning.

  Transforming pain into purpose, for these young men it came from reaching out to others. For those of us in the business, it means using the power of the loss we witness and turning it into a quest to make a difference every day in the lives of those we meet. It may be a family who enters our premises and looks for guidance and assistance. It may be the person we meet at the grocery store, the bank or on our other errands. It may be someone in our own family who looks to us for help.

  Many of you reading this will think what a simple task this will be. It is easy for us to give of ourselves. Our business even brings those in need right to our door. The phone rings constantly with a chance to help out. Three times a day? You may think that you could fill your pocket with pennies and still move them all to the other pocket by day’s end.

  But what about the other side of this equation, how good are you at receiving? Life is about balance and it is just as important that you are a good “receiver” and not just a joyful “giver.” Throw out the old adage: ‘tis better to give than to receive. You must do both. Can you ask for help when you need it? Do you welcome advice or assistance from those around you? Many people struggle with this and do not like to ask for help. Heck, they don’t even like to get help without asking. They are like the two-year old in the “me do” stage. They can do it all themselves, even if it is a bit of a struggle. If this sounds like you, read on for a reason to stop the old habit of “me do” and begin to allow the “yes, thank you” into your life.

  Research has shown that when a person receives a kindness, their serotonin levels rise, making them feel good. The person who offers the kindness, their levels rise as well. Remarkably anyone who witnesses that kindness also has an upswing in their serotonin levels. The ripple effect of a kindness offered and received continues on. In fact, those people who received or witnessed a kindness were more likely to offer one to someone else that day. “Pay it forward” in action. Yet if you don’t allow someone to help you, you are depriving so many from the benefit of the kind action. “Me do” must make way for “you do for me” in order for this chain reaction to begin. Give and take, offer and receive, from one kindness to another. Take another three pennies and use them to mark each time you allow someone to help you. From pocket to pocket, person to person, the pennies are merely touchstones to remind us that our lives are enriched when we make “cents” out of our day.


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