Character Chats

Paying it Forward

Paying it Forward

Here at True Balance Karate in Downers Grove, Illinois, we have a social emotional learning program called True Character. I’m Master H, owner and chief instructor here at the studio. I have two master’s degrees in education, and we’ve developed this curriculum to best meet the needs of our youngest students who are three or four, and our oldest student who is 85.

This month we are talking about having an attitude of gratitude, showing appreciation for those around us, recognizing the things that we have, demonstrating our thankfulness, and just being aware of all of the good positives that are in our lives.

We started the month by defining gratitude, which I just reminded you of. And then, the second week we talked about the people that we’re grateful for, the moments that we’re grateful for, and the pets and objects and things that we’re grateful for in our lives. And then, last week we talked about how we can show that gratitude to those things, to those people, and recognize those moments so that we can continue to foster this positivity.

This week we’re talking about paying it forward and when I was thinking about it, I was reminded of a time that I was in the drive-through line. I placed my order, I pulled forward, and somebody said, the person at the cash register said, “Oh, the person in front of you covered your meal.” And I said, “Really? Seriously?” And they said, “Yes.”

I, of course, felt the need to then pay it forward and picked up the person in the car behind me, just looking to keep that same positive surprise moment that hopefully would make somebody’s day because somebody did something nice for them. So, as we’re paying it forward, it’s continuing to create those moments, share those opportunities, not just say thank you, but almost take it to the next level.

Being aware of things that are needed in our communities. There’s charities out there we can gather things for and donate to. There’s places and projects that we can help out with and donate our time to and pay it forward that way. There’s lots of different things that we as a society are able to do to take care of each other if only we take a moment and practice that black belt awareness and practice that eyes open, seeing everything that’s happening around us.

I know for my two kids, one of the things that I always wanted to instill in them was this idea that you take care of the kids on the playground that might not have a friend, and they would. They would take that student under their wing and they would foster relationships with them and they would pay it forward so that people were taken care of. Because the more positive the outlook we have on our lives, the lower our stress level, the more we’re able to meet challenges, the more we’re able to set goals and achieve those goals. The more that we have this positive outlook, the happier we all are. And so, if we take a moment and we think about different ways that we can give back, different talents that we can have, different ideas that we can do, I’m sure that we can all brainstorm a whole bunch of them.

Here at our studio, we have a community service project that all of our black belts have to do, and even our 10 and 11 and 12-year-old black belts have to do these 10 hours of community service, and they sit down and they think about it. I’ve had students who choose to clean up the park, and that’s fantastic. They are giving back, they are paying it forward. They are grateful for the community they live in and they have chosen to clean up the park. One student in particular is really good with knitting and was part of a group that was knitting hats and scarves and things like that for a different charity, so she was filling her hours with us by also donating her time to this group who was donating hats and gloves and scarves to a different charity, so it was like a multitude of paying it forwards that way.

So if you have a talent like knitting, absolutely. Drawing, painting, playing music, all sorts of different things fall under that idea of where you could give back your times and talents that would then make somebody else feel good, that would take care of somebody else. That’s the idea of paying it forward, of continuing that gratitude, of showing it further and taking a look and having your eyes open in your community because there is so much in our lives to be grateful for if only we take a moment and we stop and look at it all.

I hope you’ve enjoyed your journey with me on gratitude. Next month we’re going to be talking about initiative which, to an extent, I feel kind of goes hand in hand, so stay tuned for that.

Thanks, and I’ll see you on the mat!


True Balance Karate was founded in 2012 by Master Sue and Paul Helsdon.

We offer kids karate lessons for pre-school children ages 3-6 and elementary age kids ages 7 and up. These lessons are designed to develop the critical building blocks kids need — specialized for their age group — for school excellence and later success in life.

Our adult martial arts training is a complete adult fitness and conditioning program for adults who want to lose weight, get (and stay) in shape, or learn self-defense in a supportive environment.

Instructors can answer questions or be contacted 24 hours of the day, 7 days a week at 630-663-2000. You can also contact us here