Editor’s Note: The following is one in a series of articles being featured in the Bangor Daily News that will highlight a local Pay it Forward movement with stories of ordinary people benefiting from acts of kindness and how they choose to pay that kindness forward. These will be featured in the Positively Maine page.
BANGOR, Maine — A few months ago, Alysa Bushey, 23, of Bangor, did something that took a great deal of courage. She recognized she was in a bad relationship and needed to leave. That decision left her temporarily homeless, not a good situation for someone in the last months of pregnancy.
“When I realized that I had another life that I needed to take care of, was when I made the decision to leave,” Bushey, 23, of Bangor said. “I will never do anything to let that baby be in danger. It’s not just yourself anymore.”
She knew her family could not help her as she moved forward with her decision and soon she found herself living with her infant son at the shelter operated by Spruce Run. The Bangor organization provides information and support to people of all ages affected by abuse and domestic violence throughout Penobscot County, including the Bangor area, Lincoln, Millinocket and Newport, according to its website.
That was where Bushey heard about the Pay it Forward program from shelter staff members.
“The first thing I thought of was the movie [of the same name] and I thought it was a good idea,” she said. By then, several months had gone by and she was ready to transition to her own apartment. She needed a piece of furniture she could sleep on. The Pay it Forward program provided her with $100 so she could buy a futon.
The Pay it Forward movement in the Bangor area is fostered by Rick Bernstein and his wife, Heather. Instead of “paying back,” those who receive a kindness “pay it forward” by doing a kindness for someone else.
Bushey’s act of kindness centers on someone she has never met. In her work as a phlebotomist at Eastern Maine Medical Center, a co-worker told her about a friend who is on continuous bed rest during a difficult pregnancy.
“She had nothing for the baby so I decided to collect things she’d need for her baby — a girl,” Bushey said. She collected clothes, diapers and even a breast pump. Bushey said she enjoyed helping someone she doesn’t know because it’s mysterious.
“It’s that person in the back of your life you’ve never met,” she said.
Her choice of action in paying it forward was prompted, she said, by her own experience of expecting a baby.
“I didn’t know what I needed until I needed it. This way I can pass that knowledge forward.”
“Pay it Forward aligns well with the Spruce Run mission of fostering peace and equality among all people. It puts everyone on a level field — you give, you receive — it makes us all feel more connected and at peace,” said Cathleen Neslusan, Spruce Run resource development coordinator.
“Because we’re all human,” Bushey added. She said she will continue to pay it forward in several ways, one of them close to home.
“My sister is helping me out with taking care of my baby while I work, and driving me around since I don’t have a car right now. I’m thinking of what I can do to pay it forward to her. I also will keep an eye out for people in rough situations because I have friends in bad relationships and I want to help when I can.”
She envisions letting friends stay with her and driving them to work when she has a car again. But she also has plans for herself. She wants to go back to school to study surgical technology.
“We are grateful to Rick Bernstein for making these funds available to help us help those who are putting their lives back together,” Neslusan said.
“I would help anyone anyway,” Bushey said. “I’d give what I have, even if I don’t have much.”