FEBRUARY 8, 2021 — Have you stood in a checkout aisle and started to sweat because you realized you were short on cash? Unexpectedly, the shopper behind you stepped in to cover your groceries, and you did the same for a shopper the next time.
Or maybe you were at a coffee shop, standing in line and learned the person in front of you pre-paid for your drink? Or you shoveled a neighbor’s driveway, and the next snowfall, that neighbor shoveled three other driveways and the sidewalk, too.
That’s paying it forward. Yes, we say thank you to the person who thought of us in that moment, but then we do a similar kindness for someone else in the future.
In December 2020, the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services (DHSS) honored the pending arrival of COVID-19 vaccines and other brighter things to come through the “Bring Back the Light” event. The night before winter solstice, Alaskans across the state lit ice luminaries and shined all types of lights to show their resiliency and support for one another.
Pay It Forward in February
During the week of Feb. 12–Feb. 19, 2021, the health department is organizing “Pay It Forward February
.” During the month, remember the time when someone showed you a kindness during the pandemic, and then pay that kindness forward to someone else. You can pay the same kindness forward: someone bought you a coffee, so you bought the next person in line a coffee. Or you offer whatever kindness works best for you. Maybe someone jump-started your car when you needed to get to work, and you turned around and cooked dinner for the neighbor who works long hours and is coming home to a hungry family at night. Paying it forward doesn’t have to cost a cent. Open the door for the person behind you, offer a helping hand to the child who slipped on the ice, or smile at someone who looks like they could use one.
There are many ways to share kindness this month
Paying it forward between Feb. 12 and Feb. 19 can look different for everyone. It could be as easy as thanking someone, running an errand for an elderly neighbor, or shopping at local businesses that may be struggling to keep the doors open during the pandemic. You could reach out to Alaskans you know who are 65 or older and help them sign up for a COVID-19 vaccine appointment through covidvax.alaska.gov or by calling (907) 646-3322. You may be looking for company right now, at the same time an animal needs a loving home. Visit a local shelter and adopt a pet.
Many Alaskans don’t need just one week for showing kindness. They show it all year-round. A group of 2,500 Alaskans belong to the Pay It Forward Fairbanks Facebook page that provides a place to ask for what you need and thank others for what they’ve given. You’ll see stories of people who’ve started car after car after car in this Alaska city that’s used to frigid temperatures and dead batteries that need a kick-start. You’ll read posts about neighbors offering clothes to others in need, community members helping a resident find a low-cost used car to get to a new job, and families paying for the meal for the carload of people behind them in the drive-through.
During Pay It Forward February, you could support local organizations that are helping families throughout the state. There are so many to consider. DHSS is partnering with many groups to encourage supporting others in February. This includes the United Way organizations in Anchorage, Mat-Su, Southeast and Tanana Valley. The United Way of Anchorage’s annual Walk 4 Warmth is scheduled Feb. 5–14, 2021, right along with Pay It Forward February. All funds raised will help families and individuals who are struggling to pay rent, utilities and other basic needs during the pandemic. Walk 4 Warmth is actually a perfect example of paying it forward: Each dollar donated will go even further, with a 1-to-1 match.
The Food Bank of Alaska, Anchorage Park Foundation, Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium and so many more groups are also supporting Alaskans to share kindness with others this month. You could pay it forward by dropping off food to your local food bank or cleaning up trash along the local park trails. You can’t go wrong with kindness.
Share your kindness, and tag someone else to do the same
Pay It Forward February isn’t a formal event. This is one activity you can make your own. You can participate by yourself, but the real magic comes when the kindness keeps going. Ask your friends and loved ones to join you in paying it forward, or participate as a business or organization. Then ask your friends, family and groups to tag others to participate. Post your Pay It Forward actions on social media. Consider sharing photos or videos of how you paid it forward this month by using the hashtag #WithYouAlaska. More kindness can start in February, but it doesn’t need to stop then.