by Vanessa Burns

What if everyone acted a little nicer?

How could being kind and generous towards others affect our lives? Thirdsemester Abbott student Mei Yang wanted to know just that. She started a Facebook page called “PIF Relay”, which promotes random acts of kindness in an attempt to make us happier. Mei agreed to do an interview to tell us about her project.

What exactly is PIF Relay?

PIF stands for Paying It Forward. The idea behind this little organization is to promote random acts of kindness and generosity. We see so many anti-bullying, anti-racism, anti-smoking groups and campaigns… So I thought kind gestures and benevolence are definitely worth celebrating and encouraging as well.

But it kind of goes further than that though…PIF relay is the relay of reaching out to other people without hesitation – to help us be happier.

What inspired you to start PIF Relay?

This might sound strange, but it was my own “pursuit of happiness” that inspired me to create an organization like PIF. I’ve always asked myself how I can be happy when things are going wrong, how I can stay positive when it is so easy to give up and complain. I just thought that, if I am having some trouble, surely other people are too because we all have our challenges.

I started reading Dale Carnagie’s “How to Stop Worrying and Start Living”, and that was really an eyeopener for me. I noticed how helping others brought me so much joy and often made it easier for me to let go of certain frustrations. Ultimately, I like to make others happy because it makes me happy. In the end, it’s a win-win situation where everybody’s happy!

That’s what PIF relay is about: to help more people realize that “when we are good to others, we are best to ourselves”, as Benjamin Franklin would say.

I was really busy, I was lacking confidence, I was stressed out. My goal was to remind the people who are like me to take a break, breathe, and engage with the present.

Do you think your goal has or can be achieved?

Not on the scale that I would have liked. I only started this project about 8 months ago, and I’ve been nourishing it on and off because of school. But I have a few friends giving me positive feedback and encouraging me. That always acts as my fuel.

Have you gotten any help from friends or family to accomplish your mission?

When I first thought of this idea, I was so afraid to go for it. I was afraid that people would find it silly, childish, pointless. I sent a Facebook message to my high school English teacher, Mrs. Stephenson, who gave me a lot of support and encouraged me to start my project.

Now that the project is up, many friends are very supportive of my efforts and ask me about my progress. It’s always nice to hear: “How is your project going?” or “I have an idea that you might like!” I am grateful to have friends who will share my posts on their Facebook walls, talk about my project to their friends, and try to spread the word a little.

What are your visions or hopes for the future of this project?

Honestly, this is just a side project that I’m working on because it brings me a little more joy. It’s something that I’m doing for myself to keep me going. If the group can slowly grow to help more people realize how valuable they are and how much each of us can bring to all of us, then I would be very satisfied. At the same time, I think I’m still afraid of setting the goal too high for fear of failure, but I plan on tackling whatever feelings are pulling me back.

And that’s why PIF is so great: I get to improve myself while trying to help others.

What have you learned from this experience and what do you think others can take away from it?

I am fortunate enough to have awesome people supporting me, but I would say that an important thing I’ve learned through starting this project is that everything is mind over matter. Even if no one is there to tell you “go for it!”, but you think that your idea is worth a shot, then take the shot. Because it is often the things that we don’t do that we regret. There’s nothing worse than wondering “what if ”.

If there are three things to take from Mei’s insight, they are to be nice to people, go for your dreams, and like her Facebook page at www.facebook. com/PIFrelay!

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