Most of us are familiar with ‘Pay it Forward,’ thanks in part to the 2000 movie of the same name. In the film, a young boy is assigned a school project to find an idea that can change the world. No small task there. The character develops the ‘pay it forward’ concept and sets into motion a chain reaction of good deeds that, while perhaps not changing the world, created a positive effect in the lives of many with the hope that it would continue indefinitely.
Perhaps lesser known is that this movement of sorts was conceptualized by one of our Nation’s Founding Fathers. In 1784, Benjamin Franklin gave a small amount of money to Benjamin Webb. Instead of repayment, Franklin asked that Webb, when he was able and the situation availed itself, find another‘…honest man in similar Distress. You must pay me by lending this Sum to Him.’ Franklin further beseeched Webb to ask that the next recipient carry on the tradition.
The concept has silently become nearly ubiquitous in American culture: Sci-Fi author Robert A. Heinlein makes note of it in Between Planets; it is also AA’s 12th Step; and it is mentioned repeatedly throughout popular culture. Regardless of its origins, the theory is both simple and powerful.
By paying it forward, one person and one seemingly small act can make a meaningful impact in the lives of many. The sum is greater than the parts. Money is certainly not necessary. Gestures, smiles, simple kindnesses are always (well, almost always) appreciated. Help the person who is struggling to get the groceries to their car, volunteer your time, stop and pick up that dog running loose in the street. These are small (sometimes) things we can do that will absolutely change the course of someone’s day. Maybe more than just their day.
Give it a try.
Have examples of paying it forward you would like to share?