Last February was such a busy time for our family that when it came time to celebrate our anniversary, my husband and I opted to simply enjoy lunch at a favorite local eatery. As we walked in the restaurant door, we spotted some friends we hadn't seen in a while. We stopped at their table and chatted with them before we were escorted to our own seats.
Coming out of pandemic isolation, it was nice to actually see people we knew, face to face, but we moved on and soon focused on our own meal. When it came time to pay the bill, we were greeted with the news that it had already been taken care of. "Anonymously." We had our guesses, but how do you pay back a gesture like that?
Fast forward to this week. Once again, my husband and I were enjoying a late lunch at a local restaurant when we spotted someone we knew coming in the door: a missionary now seldom in town. On this trip home, he wanted to treat his dad to a special dinner. It didn't take us long to realize we had just been given our opportunity. While some gestures come designed with a way to be paid back, others can only be "paid forward" by passing them on.
This was our chance to pass it on.
I think of the many times we can "pass it on" in the genealogy world. Anyone who has had that spark of a desire to learn how to build a family tree, to ponder which way to chart the travels of their ancestors, to explore tried and true methods for preserving the family stories, has benefited from the generosity of others. We benefited from the people with the know-how who guided us, shared with us the resources, and listened to the excitement of our discoveries. We've benefited from the help of so many others who've scanned records and uploaded them to share on websites, blogs, online trees and other community resources. We grew into the researchers we've become, thanks to the guidance of others who "paid it forward" by investing their experience in our willingness to learn.
At some point, it becomes our chance to pass it on.
To upload an old family photo to our online tree, to post an answer to an online question, to "get involved" by checking census entries, to volunteer at a library's genealogy reference section: each time we take that little step to help someone else with their research, we become the one who is passing it on. We, too, had once benefited from the help of others. From those who helped us to those whom we can help, we become one step in an ongoing chain of sharing by a community which has learned to help itself by paying it forward.