Sunday, February 27, 2011

Paying It Forward - Always a Good Idea

I had the opportunity to attend the Canucks - Bruins game last night.  My intent was two-fold.  One was to watch the Bruins (who are the sworn nemesis to my beloved Canadiens) lose to the Canucks.  The second was to try and get a puck during the warm-up from one of the Boston players to send to a friend in Newfoundland who is afflicted with Bruins fever.

I arrived early with a buddy from work and we headed down to ice level.  I had a sign with me that included the Bruins logo and a few sentences that read "Die hard Bruins fan from Botwood, Newfoundland. Please toss me a puck. Thanks." Friendship will cause you to do things you wouldn't normally do and being that close to Bruins fans and sporting their logo was a small price to pay for the imagined thrill the puck would create for Jim.

As the Bruins were winding down their warm-up, Tyler Seguin (the 2nd overall pick in the last draft) stopped to read the sign.  I watched him complete his drill and then cradle the puck with his stick and skate back to my location.  He pointed to me and then tossed the puck over the glass.  What a classy move for that young man! The educator in me thought "he must have learned some valuable lessons in school", and the Dad in me thought "his parents must have instilled some very strong notions of selflessness". My buddy from work saw the whole scene unfold from his vantage point in the corner (we thought he could cover the end of the rink and grab a puck that went over the glass) and came over to celebrate the successful accomplishment of the task.

What he didn't realize was that after cradling the puck, I caught the eye of a young Bruins fan who was attending his first game featuring his heroes.  His Dad told me how excited his five year old was and how the whole day had been the constant questioning ("Are we going now?", "Now?", "How about now?") that five year olds are great at. He was wearing his oversized Lucic jersey like a robe and was eyeing my recently acquired souvenir.

You all can predict what happened next.  Really, what choice was there? His eyes just danced when I told him the puck was his. His Dad (who had the background of my quest because of my sign) tried to get the puck back to me but there was no way I was going to be the one to erase the pure joy that was written across his sons' face.

I'm sure Jim will understand and I know he would have done the same.  For me? It was probably a good thing to get rid of that Bruins memorabilia as I couldn't imagine the penance I would owe to the hockey gods of Montreal.

Paying it forward always yields its own rewards.  


  1. Good on you Tom! Enjoyed reading your post. How do you measure "paying it forward" in education? How do you measure touching hearts and inspiring minds? You may never find out what impact your gesture had on this little kid - you can only trust that you made a difference.

  2. Thanks Johnny. When I think about our role as educators I'm reminded of the Chinese proverb that states "The one that plants the tree rarely gets to enjoy its shade." I think this is so true for us in this field. We must not stop planting and trust that our efforts will make a difference.

  3. Beautiful, Tom.

    Paying it forward, being an educator, is something we do in our lives and as an extension in our schools. "His eyes just danced" and "pure joy" - I step back and appreciate how you saw the dancing eyes and how they moved you.

    Your sensitivity to the moment, your full "awakeness" if you will, made the boy's night but perhaps the greater 'yield' will come in the father's retelling of this random act of kindness.

    The greater yield, like the hope that our students will become life long learners, is really unknown; however, all we can continue to do, both professionally and personally, is pay it forward and put our faith in the hope that our interactions will have a positive significance beyond the immediacy of the situation.

    Now, one last note, if you think the Montreal hockey gods are going to smile on this act by giving you a first round win, you're out of your mind!

  4. Thanks Gino. I appreciate your insights on this one. The real joy in our profession comes in the dreaming of what can be. As I shared recently with a group in Toronto, the beauty of our work is not that we get to predict the future but that we get to create it.

    As for the playoffs, there is a line I recall from my childhood days in Montreal: "The Cup parade will take the usual route."