The Pay It Forward Movement

You may have heard of the term “pay it forward.” Maybe it’s in regard to a line for coffee, in a food drive-thru lane, or even the popular movie starring Helen Hunt and Kevin Spacey. But what does it mean to pay something forward? According to this definition it “…is an expression for describing the beneficiary of a good deed repaying it to others instead of to the original benefactor.” Today, pay it forward moments often refer to someone paying the bill for the next person in the line behind them, which can lead that person to do the same for the person after them, and so on.

Pay it forward moments come in big and small sizes. It only takes one person to start a chain reaction – one that even sparks national interest. Last year, USA Today reported on a small act of kindness at a Starbucks drive-thru that sparked 11 hours of paying it forward. It all started when one woman chose to pay for her own coffee and the order of the driver behind her which led the customer behind her to do the same. This cycle continued for 378 customers that day.

Sometimes, paying it forward is more about sending a smile or happy moment to someone. This summer in Wellesley, Mass., a small blue, rubber sock monkey began appearing on cars while people shopped or ran errands. One woman reported that when she came out of a local CVS, she discovered the little toy. “I only noticed it when I went to back out of my spot and checked my mirror. It made me laugh and I decided to share the joy and leave it another car’s mirror and let them smile,” she explained.

There is even a foundation dedicated to helping people start their own pay it forward chains with the goal of raising money for the charities of their own choosing. Pay It Forward Foundation assists users setting up online profiles to share with their friends to begin raising money for their favorite cause. The foundation believes in leading by example and aims to connect current and potential donors to charitable organizations that need it most.

As you move through your week, here are some simple tips and ways you, too, can pay it forward.

  1. Be attentive wherever you are for opportunities to help someone. By acting when not asked to, kindness is spread more rapidly.
  2. Do something nice for someone you don’t know (or don’t know very well.) It’s easy to do something kind for a loved one, but push your comfort zone this week and think of ways to make someone else smile.
  3. Spread the word. If someone thanks you for a good deed and offers to do something in return, ask that they pay it forward to someone else.

Have you ever been the recipients of someone’s pay it forward moment? Tell us in the comments section below.

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