Pay It Forward: An Event That Uplifted a Community
“A kind gesture can reach a wound that only compassion can heal.” ~ Steve Maraboli
I remember lying on my side in bed, sobbing quietly–and yet so hard–I didn’t think the tears would stop. To hear that he had passed away set off a flood of emotions that I had been holding in for months.
A New Home
We moved to the Tri-cities area when Dexter was only 14 months old, in the spring of 2013. It’s hard to make friends when you’re a transplant, a mom, and a 36 year old lifelong introvert. Online connection has been a lifesaver at times, and when I found the More Than Moms group on Facebook, it was exactly what I needed. We shared recommendations and laughs and the frustrations of parenting.
Heartbreak Hits Home
But, 2015 was a particularly hard year, our little community faced illness and the loss of two children. None affected me quite like one area mom–her son had been diagnosed with a fatal cancer. He was only two months younger than Dexter. They were the same age, three and a half years old. It was both humbling and terrifying.
She shared her story, the journey of his illness, and his last days with their family. Honestly, I’m not sure if it helped her, or if it helped us more. It can be cathartic to share with people who will support you and love you through tragedy. But, personally, I squeezed Dex a little closer each day, snuggled him a little longer each night. From the moment he was born, I couldn’t imagine life without him. Knowing that she was watching her son go through the unimaginable–and losing him–absolutely ripped my heart out.
A Longing for Connection
I suppose, looking back at 2015, I was reeling on the inside, longing for connection and understanding. The thing about motherhood is that it takes you places you’ve never imagined, both good and bad. As these families were struggling with survival, I was going through trauma of my own. Albeit not life threatening, there were days that I wasn’t sure how to make it through. Dexter had hit a wall earlier in the summer with his anxiety, anger, rage, sensory processing and all that goes along with it. Scott was traveling around the world for work, sometimes for up to two weeks at a time. I was working from home, into the late hours of the night and early mornings. I was alone a lot with my two boys, including Brock, still an infant at the time. I would later be diagnosed with postpartum anxiety (PPA), but that’s a story for another day. The community on the More Than Moms page helped me through some of the hardest days. But, the heartbreak within the community was a continual reminder that even though life was strained, life is to be cherished. No matter how hard it got, I loved on Dexter, even through times that tested me to my core.
The Pay It Forward Event Begins
In September of 2015, members of the group started “paying it forward,” one weekend, in an attempt to acknowledge the pain we had been witness to, hoping to bring something positive to each others’ lives, paying tribute to those families that had lost their little ones. Small business owners offered services for free, like a photo session or a product from their Etsy store. I joined in on the movement, seeing the happiness that it brought, offering a selection of books that Dexter and I loved reading together. And, like most giving, it gave back to me ten-fold. I smiled, knowing I had contributed to bringing a smile to another mom’s face.
At the Heart of More Than Moms
More Than Moms was created by area mom, Lisa Aiken, for connection–the name even changing along the way so moms could realize they aren’t “just moms,” but so much more. This was no more evident than during the very first Pay It Forward event. I remember distinctly members saying, “I wish I could contribute, but I don’t have a small business.” Not long after those initial statements, the Pay It Forward event began flowing in with a wave of creativity–free babysitting for date night, a homemade meal, and endless other “gifts” that only moms know the value of. The group was created for connection, and this legacy of Pay It Forward is just one more way it has achieved that goal. This event has become an annual blessing for the group, a way of showing love towards each other, in remembrance of those families who faced the unthinkable. It makes my heart happy to see the giving between members, and I have made an attempt to participate each year.
As for the regular, day-to-day page, I’m not a regular commenter, but more of a “lurker.” I suppose I’m an introvert through-and-through, even virtually. 🙂 Because I’m not vocal as much on the group’s page, I would like to personally thank Lisa for starting this group–it has been a saving grace for me and so many moms over the last seven years.
Have you been inspired by another mom’s story? The best way to pay tribute is to give back! What can you do to Pay It Forward today?
“Learn to light a candle in the darkest moments of someone’s life. Be the light that helps others see; it is what gives life its deepest significance.” ~ Roy T. Bennett