Passover & Paying It Forward

We arrived in the Twin Cities in August 2012 with four kids ranging from 3 to 10 to find out the house we were supposed to rent fell through. We moved in with very new friends. At the end of 10 weeks of superhuman generosity, I asked my hostess: ‘How will I ever repay this kindness?’ She looked me in the eye and said: ‘Please G-d I will never need anything like this from you. You can pay me back by paying it forward. You’ll pay it forward.’

Tonight, I find myself in my friend’s closet.

I have recently been invited by my magnanimous parents to join them in a hotel for Passover. I’m so excited! We will get our first Passover away in 14 years, overlap with different siblings and meet three new babies. The only challenge is how I will get myself properly outfitted for the East Coast fashion scene.

A kind, intuitive friend promptly invites me to “shop” in her closet. She then convinces me I’m doing her a favor by “thinning out” her wardrobe. With my “purchases” in hand, I thank her profusely but there’s a definite imbalance!

My conscience rewinds to the pay it forward charge of five years ago. May G-d continue to bestow plenty on this friend (and may she never have to shop in my closet!). I remind myself that giving doesn’t have to be tit-for-tat. I will have to restore equilibrium to my universe with paying it forward in my own way to different people.

While we’re on the topic of dresses, instead of lengthening one of my daughter’s dresses that got a little too short I will give the dress to a kid with a similar complexion. I have fulfilled a small drop of the pay-it-forward challenges.

The examples start flowing…

For all those times my hostess of 10 weeks fed us, I will share food with others. People going through a rough patch, a new mom whose meal train is over…I’ll try and go the extra mile and package it nicely even if it’s just my leftovers.

A friend from out of town needs a birthday cake that will be 100 percent nut-free for her young son…I make a cake and she’s so relieved. I tell her I know she’ll help another mom along the way whose kid has food allergies.

Those siblings of mine, who were single when I had my babies and they helped me so much, I’m not around to help them with theirs on a regular basis but I can hold babies at my Shabbat dinner so their parents can eat with two arms.

My friend helps me organize my basement. I promise you don’t want me to help you with yours but I’d be happy to teach you how to make challah.

I leave the most important of all for last. My mind fills with the empowering messages of the strong, bold, refined, and passionate women who have taught, counseled, mentored and guided me through my formative years and professional journey. You know, the people who make you want to be the best version of yourself? The ones who make it apparent you wanted to take the high road along because it behooves you and anyway there’s less traffic there. I think of them and then I listen deeply to someone who’s on the verge of despair. I’m empathetic and then I tell them they must persevere because their clients need them or their community needs them and if anyone could bring change in their community it’s them. I remember a kind empowering word they said to me and I drop a genuine soulful compliment to my right and a warm smile to my left. I ask the cashier how long she’s been working at the store and if she likes working there. I can do all this because someone did it for me. It’s not identical to what was done for me but my well is full. Full enough to pay it forward.

I feel my friend’s spirit like a guiding light and I hope I’m doing her proud with the task she charged me with.