Grace Notes: Paying It Forward


Yes, this.

I am reminded daily of the blessings I enjoy.

My job, education, position in life, and just plain dumb luck got me to where I am.

I got here with a lot of elbow grease and a lot of help.

Many folks – my parents, siblings, friends, colleagues, students – made this life possible for me. Based on my hard, obsessive-compulsive work ethic, my education, and the tremendous fortune I enjoyed being born to working-class parents at a time when working class still might become middle class, I’ve built a life that’s warm, comfortable, and blessed.


But I didn’t do it alone.

There’s this sense in the U.S. that everyone is out riding a pony through the wild west, foraging for food and building their homestead from scratch. While aspects of that might have been true 150 years ago, there’s no one in this society now who hasn’t benefited from things like fire protection, police, infrastructure, public education and educators, environmental protection, food safety, and basic law and order.

Anyone who thinks they ‘did it’ alone, is, frankly, full of shite.

Nobody’s business or professional success would be possible without mail service, phone service, roads, truckers, rail service, flights, and a tsunami of other elements of modern life including a functioning tax base and an effective, free, functioning government.

No one succeeds without help.

No one succeeds without suppliers, raw materials, employees, accountants, and banks. No one.

So, when I hear anyone saying that someone in poverty must be lazy or no good or unable to get it together – even if those things are ‘true’ in some way – that doesn’t mean we get to walk past their troubles and pretend our lives can continue to be good indefinitely while letting them fall further and further and further behind.

It doesn’t work that way.

I can’t solve your unhappiness by becoming unhappy; however, I can’t overlook your suffering without also suffering myself.

That’s cause and effect. We must transform our sufferings. We must shift our perspective and raise our life condition so we can – together – confront the problems we face, individually and collectively.

We are not separate from each other.

We rise and fall together. There is no ‘us’ versus ‘them’. There’s just us.

We are here to care for each other.

It’s simple: Love thy neighbor as thyself.


There are many among us right now who’ve lost heart. They’re experiencing grief, job loss, illness, death, and a host of other sorrows.

They’re stumbling along in the dark during this so-called season of light.

We cannot do it all alone; but we can do it all together.

We can change this. We can birth a new way of running this world. We can foster an inclusive, cooperative world that works for everyone, not just a few.

We can become the face of grace and truth and wonder.

As someone who’s spent time (2+ years of hell) unemployed, I know what that’s like.  As someone with chronic depressive tendencies (all of my twenties, half of my thirties), I know what it is like to feel bereft. That makes me more likely to care when someone tells me they’re down on their luck. That makes me more likely to hold their hand and compassionately tell them, ‘this, too, shall pass.’

We’re only apt to flail in the darkness if we forget we contain light.

We can’t forget we contain light.

We can’t forget that we must share that light – person to person to person –  to rekindle hope that’s been gutted this year.

Those of us with blessings must give back to this world that has gifted us with so much.

It’s called ‘paying it forward’ and it’s your rent for living on earth right now. Do whatever you can, whenever you can, wherever you can.

Drop by drop by drop, let’s change this.


Everyone has a book inside of them. Everyone has a story. Wouldn’t you love to share yours with the world? Get your free writer’s toolkit, packed with tricks and tips to get you started. Just do it. Don’t wait. Don’t die with an untold story inside you.

Copyright 2016  Shavawn M. Berry All rights reserved

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