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TALES OF OUR TIME: In unprecedented times, the one thing we can all do is pay it forward

This piece by Michael Hayman originally appeared in Country & Town House, May edition. 

We can be kind. That is what we can be when the world seems cruel. We can pay it forward. Repay the kindness of others by our own good deeds and thoughtfulness. When facing the fear of the unknown we have choices about how we decide to behave, how we react and respond.

Look at the world around you – family, friends, neighbours, and the very many others who may need you right now, even if you aren’t immediately aware of it. The elderly and the vulnerable who, in a world of isolation, may yearn for nothing more than a listening ear. Or the small firms fighting to find different ways of staying relevant but facing the risk of customers battening down the hatches. From food producers to piano teachers, all are finding inventive ways to ensure safety in their services. They need you to pay it forward.

So, don’t close the door. Instead, do what you can to bring light into the world to beat a common foe. Because our greatest strength is to choose to face our fears together. Why? The 19th-century German poet Rainer Maria Rilke put it like this: ‘Do not believe that he who seeks to comfort you lives untroubled among the simple and quiet words that sometimes do you good. His life has much difficulty and sadness… Were it otherwise he would never have been able to find those words.’

Compassion matters. The founder of Planet Organic, Renée Elliott, told me that, ‘This is a chance to be thoughtful and to self-examine. Ask yourself what you want in life? What could you do differently? What have you neglected?’ Her advice is to regroup, re-think and re-vision your life. Your best self.

In these troubling times so many will be called upon to give their best – doctors, nurses, delivery drivers, refuse collectors, a host of front line heroes – to keep us safe. You can never pay that back – the kindness that others might show you in an hour of need. But you can pay it forward. And that’s something you can do right now.

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Chapter 1 outlines the concept of mission and how the breakthrough brands of today have succeeded by building a mission that inspires belief, generates a following and instils a purpose beyond profit.