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Paying it forward on Portland's street corners

Have you ever been the recipient of a random act of kindness? Out of the blue, the stranger in front of you pays your toll; or the person behind you in the coffee shop steps ups to pay for your coffee. Expecting nothing in return, this act of kindness brightens your day; you feel better, and you begin to think: Maybe I should reciprocate in kind to someone else. It feels good to brighten someone else's day. And you know what? It will brighten your day too!9-27-oped-vachon-steele
Next — imagine if you were to inspire more people to spread these random acts of kindness across the country — in the workplace, schools, sports teams, civic activities and community; touching all aspects of life. Do you think we, as a people, would feel better and be better for it?
Dr. Clint Steele, former chiropractor in South Portland, is launching a movement that begins tomorrow: Pay it Forward X 1 Million. His goal is to involve others and to encourage others to set a goal to perform 1 million positive acts of kindness in one year. He chose Sept. 28 as the kick-off date in honor of his father's birthday. "My dad was my best friend, and the greatest dad ever. He was killed in an auto accident in 1995, so this is my way of paying tribute to him," explained Steele.
Indeed — a good start for this project. What parent doesn't want their child to be happy in their life? Today, Steele (age 43) is happy with his life; by spreading inspiration and happiness to others. But, his life hadn't always been that way.
From Colorado originally, Steele moved to Maine in 1993. This former All-American football player decided to become a doctor after playing a year of college football. He received his doctorate at age 23, and opened a chiropractic practice in South Portland. Though he enjoyed helping people regain their health, he realized that chiropractic wasn't his passion and purpose. He became depressed. So depressed, in fact, he didn't want to get out of bed in the morning. Forcing himself up, by noon he'd return home crawling into bed for a long nap to escape the world.
Monday was his most dreaded day. To get the week started, he decided to take the focus off himself, directing it, instead, to the people he appreciated in his life. He re-named the day: Grateful Monday. He wrote letters to people past and present in his life, sharing what these people meant to him. Into the mailbox they went; and off to work Steele went. A few days later, Steele heard from the letter recipients. They were so happy to receive these letters. Steele began working with youth.
"The combination of work I was doing with youth and the letters of gratitude helped me realize my passion and purpose to motivate, encourage, and inspire others to live the life of their dreams and to lift others up along the way," said Steele, who eventually discovered and became involved with the Pay It Forward Foundation.
The Pay It Forward Foundation's mission is to provide families a resource and opportunity to improve their situation in life and to realize a better life for them. With goals to open homeless shelters and community centers to help people get back on their feet. Steele loved and embraced this concept. He began to envision a focused effort to find a way to consciously "pay it forward" every day. He noticed that his life was better, and he was enjoying life a lot more. He thought of the ripple effect of good deeds. "I decided to try and track the good deed of others and see the difference they made in the lives they touched with those good deeds when they, in turn, encouraged others to pass on the good gesture. That is when I started Pay It Forward x 1 Million."
Steele has devised a wrist band movement to track positive acts of kindness by passing Pay It Forward x 1 Million wristbands. Here's how it works: A person performs a positive act of kindness. Instead of accepting anything in return, the person simply passes along a wristband and says "pay it forward."
People sponsor the wristband, which has a website address on it, along with a keyword of the sponsors choice. This keyword may be the name of a loved one, a business name, the name of someone celebrating a milestone — such as celebrating being cancer free for a year. Whatever it is, the sponsor passes the wristbands to others encouraging them to "pay it forward" in memory, celebration, honor, appreciation, of the event of the day. It becomes a way of celebrating or honoring with great consciousness and attitude. Not only does it lift you up, and make your feel good. You inspire others: Do good; feel good — perhaps it could become contagious!
Gearing up for the launch tomorrow, Steele has some sponsors on board already to include cancer free celebrants, a hockey coach, physical therapists, church groups and McDonald's of Maine.
Tomorrow, Steele and sponsors will take to the streets of Portland. Their mission: 100 acts of kindness in 100 minutes. Look for them on busy street corners during rush hour. They'll be handing out bracelets and free coffee vouchers for McDonald's. Steele hopes that this activity gets you thinking: How can I make a difference in someone's life today? To learn more about this movement, go to: http://www.payitforwardx1million.com.
(Karen Vachon is a Scarborough resident. She is a licensed health and life insurance agent and active community volunteer. To follow her on Facebook, go to: http://www.facebook.com/karenvachonhealth.)

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