“If you can’t pay it back, pay it forward.” — Catherine Ryan Hyde
Pay It Forward is an expression for when the recipient of an act of kindness does something kind for someone else rather than simply accepting or repaying the original good deed. It is synonymous with the concept of Enlightened Self-Interest – behavior based on the awareness that what is in the public interest is eventually in the interest of all individuals and groups.
Giving back is very important and the need to pay it forward cannot be over-emphasized. No one is self-made, we all get some help from the society and the onus is on us to give back to the society by becoming a mentor, leading by example, volunteering, sharing, and becoming the change we want in the world.
“You Can Have Everything In Life You Want, If You Will Just Help Enough Other People Get What They Want.” – Zig Ziglar
Pay It Forward Movie
Catherine Ryan Hyde’s novel Pay It Forward was published in 1999 and adapted into a movie of the same name in 2000. In the movie, Social studies teacher Eugene Simonet (Kevin Spacey) gives his class an assignment: look at the world around you and fix what you don’t like. One student comes up with an idea: #1 it is something that really helps people; #2 something they can’t do by themselves; and #3 do it for them, then do it for three other people.
“If you can’t pay it back, pay it forward.” – Catherine Ryan Hyde
In the movie, 7th grader Trevor implements the plan himself, forming a branch of good deeds. His first deed is to let a homeless man named Jerry live in his garage, and Jerry pays the favor forward by doing car repairs for Trevor’s mother Arlene. He further pays forward by preventing a woman from killing herself.
The Pay It Forward Concept is described in Ryan Hyde’s movie and book as an obligation to do three good deeds for others in response to a good deed that one receives. Such 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 geometrically through society, at a ratio of three to one, creating a social movement with the impact of making the world a better place.
“When you learn, teach. When you get, give.” — Maya Angelou
In his 1841 essay “Compensation” American essayist and philosopher, Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote:
Benefit is the end of nature. But for every benefit which you receive, a tax is levied. He is great who confers the most benefits. He is base — and that is the one base thing in the universe — to receive favors and render none.
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. So beware of too much good staying in your hand. It will fast corrupt and worm worms. Pay it away quickly in some sort.
Beware of too much good staying in your hand. It will fast corrupt and worm worms. Pay it away quickly in some sort.
Random Acts of Kindness Day
Random Acts of Kindness Day is a day to celebrate and encourage random acts of kindness. The day is celebrated every February 17 in the United States and September 1 in New Zealand. A random act of kindness is a non premeditated, inconsistent action designed to offer kindness towards the outside world.
According to a 2016 study conducted by Jamil Zaki, Assistant Professor of Psychology at Stanford University and director of the Stanford Social Neuroscience Laboratory – Kindness is contagious. The positive effects of kindness are experienced in the brain of everyone who witnessed the act, improving their mood and making them significantly more likely to “pay it forward.” This means one good deed in a crowded area can create a domino effect and improve the day of dozens of people!
Witnessing kindness inspires kindness, causing it to spread like a virus
Zaki and his colleagues found in their research that people imitate the particulars of positive actions and the spirit underlying them. This implies is that kindness itself is contagious and that that it can cascade across people, taking on new forms along the way.
We are much more likely to practice kindness when we witness others doing the same.
A Small Act Documentary
A young Kenyan’s life changes drastically when a Swedish stranger sponsors his education. Years later, he founds his own scholarship program to replicate the kindness he once received.
When Hilde Back sponsored a young, rural Kenyan student, she thought nothing of it. She certainly never expected to hear from him, but years later, she does. Now a Harvard graduate and a Human Rights Lawyer for the United Nations, Chris Mburu decides to find the stranger that changed his life. Inspired by her generosity, he starts a scholarship program of his own and names it for his former benefactor.
“Service to others is the rent you pay for your room here on earth.” – Muhammad Ali
The year was 2012 and I had just relocated to Accra, Ghana to start my entrepreneurial journey. I moved to Accra because I got disillusioned and frustrated with my country of birth -Nigeria (Occupy Nigeria, lack of stable supply of electricity, leaving my comfort zone, etc). On a bright afternoon, I was reading at the Accra Public Library when I stepped out to receive a call from Nigeria. After receiving the call, I saw a young man holding former U.S. President George W. Bush’s memoir: Decision Points. As a lover of non-fiction books, especially biographies. I struck a conversation with Olu about the book, and it eventually led to him helping me start my entrepreneurial journey through a loan he never collected back. I tried to return the money, but he did not collect it from me, and it taught me the concept of paying it forward.
Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, ‘What are you doing for others? -Martin Luther King, Jr.
I have since helped random strangers start their businesses and aspirations through financial help and inspiration. It is by far one of my favorite things to do in the world, and anytime I am thanked, I say: It costs a candle nothing to light another candle. One of my motivations for running this blog is to pay it forward. What I learn from books through insights, anecdotes, lessons learned, favorite takeaways, I share. Sharing it also gives me the opportunity to refer back to those concepts whenever I forget them.
It costs a candle nothing to light another candle.
There is a wide variety of ways to pay it forward:
- Random act of kindness to a stranger
- Pay for a strangers meal
- Open the door for someone
- Smile to a total stranger
- Give without expecting something in return
- Volunteer your time
- Mentor someone
The list is endless and we can all find a way to be the change we want in the world. Nothing is too small or too big. Just do it, as your random act of kindness could save someone’s life.
“If you want happiness for an hour — take a nap. If you want happiness for a day — go fishing. If you want happiness for a month — get married. If you want happiness for a year — inherit a fortune. If you want happiness for a lifetime — help someone else.” – Chinese Proverb
All the Best in your quest to get Better. Don’t Settle: Live with Passion.