I first came across this concept back in 2006 when a close friend of mine invited me to watch the Pay It Forward movie starring Kevin Spacey and Helen Hunt. Based on the book with the same title by Catherine Ryan Hyde, it tells the story of a young boy who does 3 good deeds for others in need. In return, all the boy wants is that these people pass on the good deed to three other people and keep the cycle going. These good deeds should accomplish things that the other person cannot accomplish on their own. In this way, the practice of helping one another can spread through society, at a ratio of three to one, creating a social movement with an impact of making the world a better place.
Having myself been the beneficiary of a number of acts of kindness from people who helped me through a very traumatic period during my time living in the USA and who to this day are ‘paying it forward’, I felt compelled to write about this movement in this week’s blog post. Just recently, faced with a challenging financial situation, I was again shown the kindness inherent in some people and this made me reflect on the fact that to some people, paying it forward isn’t just a nice gesture, it’s second nature. Helping other people is part of who they are, physically and spiritually, but they never make a big song and dance about their selfless contributions. These are the people who have the power to bring about real positive change to the world and often do — for them, the motivation behind doing a good deed is not the possible pat on the back they’ll get for doing so. It’s from an honest intention to help others out and nothing more.
So how does it work? In its essence, paying it forward means doing an act of kindness for others without asking for anything in return. Instead the recipient is instructed to pay it forward to someone else in need and by doing the same for someone else, this creates a ripple effect of generosity that spreads from person to person.
Kindness is a simple concept, yet has a tremendous impact on others and ourselves. It has the power to transform a human being’s day, week or even life. It can make the world a better place by ending suffering at the hands of war, hunger, human rights violations, and injustice. It also has the power to drastically improve our own well-being as well as that of others, our families, friends, acquaintances, and strangers. The very act of expressing graciousness to one another can make us more empathetic of other people’s hardships.
‘’The greatest joy comes from giving and serving, so replace your habit of focusing exclusively on yourself and what’s in it for you. When you make the shift to supporting others in your life, without expecting anything in return, you’ll think less about what you want and find comfort and joy in the act of giving and serving’’ – Dr Wayne Dyer
The Pay It Forward Movement has seen exponential growth since the release of the movie in 2000, so much so that in 2007, the Pay It Forward Day, celebrated each year on the 28th April, was founded in Australia. The recognition of the Pay It Forward Day, now with over 80 participating countries, is a global initiative with the view of making a difference by creating a huge ripple of kindness which can be felt across the globe. The belief is that small acts of kindness, when multiplied by millions of people, can literally change the world for the better.
Here are my top 10 acts of kindness which you can do to ‘pay it forward’:
- Pay for someone’s cup of coffee
- Buy a meal for a homeless person
- Pay a compliment to the first three people you talk to today.
- Send a positive text message to five different people right now.
- Post inspirational sticky notes around your office, school, neighbourhood.
- Tell someone they dropped a pound (even though they didn’t). Then give them a pound.
- Donate old towels or blankets to an animal shelter.
- In a queue, let someone who only has a few items go in front of you.
- Return shopping carts for people at the supermarket.
- When you hear that discouraging voice in your head, tell yourself something positive — you deserve kindness too!
The concept of giving without expectations is beautifully expressed by the 14th Century Persian poet, Hafiz:
With much love and gratitude