Pay It Forward is an old concept but one I’ve applied for quite awhile not even realizing it had a title, or more recently, movements and social networks. I give strangers my place in line at the store; money if they are “short” rather than see them put something back; help older folks with their groceries or carts; let other drivers “go” as a courtesy; smile at people hoping it will become contagious; tell strangers they look nice or have a pretty purse or hairstyle…any act of kindness to help improve someone’s day, or heck, even their week, depending on the act.
I do these things for a few reasons. First, I like to help people. Second, it makes people feel good and sometimes can relieve them of some stress. Third, maybe if the other person hasn’t had nice or kind things happen in their life they will see how good it feels and do it for someone else. It’s also a way for me to show my gratitude for having a good life. I realize I’m responsible for my own life, but I still want to express my appreciation and what better way than acts of kindness toward others.
As I said at the beginning, Pay It Forward isn't new. Benjamin Franklin, who lent Benjamin Webb money, wrote to Webb back in 1784 that should he meet another honest man in similar distress, he must pay him by lending the sum to him, enjoining him to discharge the debt by a like operation. Franklin hoped it would go through many hands before it met its end and a great deal of good would be done with a little bit of money.
American Essayist Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote similarly about this concept in his 1841 essay Compensation: “In the order of nature we cannot render benefits to those from whom we receive them, or only seldom. But the benefit we receive must be rendered again, line for line, deed for deed, cent for cent, to somebody."
In the Garden of Delight from 1916, Lily Hardy Hammond wrote, “You don’t pay love back, you pay it forward.” January 8, 1944, a staff correspondent for the Christian Science Monitor wrote an article about an anonymous speaker for Alcoholics Anonymous who said, “You can’t pay anyone back for what has happened to you, so try to find someone you can pay forward.” The Heifer Project was founded in 1944, whose philosophy is Passing on the Gift. And in 1951, Robert Heinlein popularized Pay It Forward in his Science Fiction book Between Planets and his work lives on in the Heinlein Foundation.
An up to date, and one I’m more familiar with, is the 2000 movie, Pay It Forward, staring Helen Hunt and Kevin Spacey, which was based on the novel by Catherine Ryan Hyde. It's now a social movement and you can even join it on Facebook. Then there’s the most recent idea called the Karma Seed, created by university student Christopher Lo after a kind stranger returned a lost video camera that Lo thought was gone forever. The Karma Seed is a credit-card-size "card" with a unique number and directions to access a website. After you perform your kindness, or favor, you give the card to the person you did the favor for and ask him/her to “pass it along”. Each person who receives the favor or kindness, and card, logs onto the website and enters the kindness information so the card has all the “good deeds” it has ever “received” listed. (The website was supposed to be up in February, but as of this writing, thekarmaseed.org appears to be an advertising site-- it’s a great idea, so I’m hoping there’s a launching delay and it gets off the ground soon.)
Then we have my all time favorite author, because she’s the one who guided ME way back in 1986 on MY path of positive thinking and to a much better life, Louise L. Hay, the founder of Hay House, and the author of my favorite book, or as I refer it, my bible, You Can Heal Your Life. Through Hay House's emails, I found a new book called am I being kind by Michael J. Chase, who sounds like he’s a contender for my top author list. I haven’t read his book yet, having only ordered it yesterday, but I did read the reviews, the first few pages on Amazon AND his web-site, the Kindness Center. What an inspirational man!
Like Mr. Chase, I had the childhood from hell but overcame it and went on to change my life into one full of love, happiness and optimism! If I can pay that forward somehow then I will have done something amazing with my life. I hope others will be inspired to read up on some of these encouraging works. Louise L. Hay’s book You Can Heal Your Life is a good place to start, as that’s where I began and found it to be motivating, as well as healing.
I realize this world is filled with a lot of ugliness, but if each of us is responsible for ourselves and we take each day to do one nice thing, even if it’s just a smile for a stranger, maybe it could be a little more beautiful and a little kinder. And let's face it, kindness, like a smile, helping someone up a set of stairs, or even a compliment is FREE! But the reward of knowing you made someone happy...made someone smile...or their day a little brighter is PRICELESS!