Paying it forward (HLD 345)

3 Mar 2021

If you haven’t heard of this concept, I’d be very surprised. Basically the concept refers to someone whom has been the beneficiary of a good deed, repaying the kindness to someone else instead of the person who did the original nice thing. The genius of the idea is that you don’t have to wait until someone has done you a favour, before you pass it on – you can be the starting point of a glorious chain of community spirit!

Obviously the idea of doing something nice for someone who doesn’t expect your assistance is not a new thing, but it now has the catchy moniker of “paying it forward”. Which in itself is apparently quite an old phrase, stemming possibly from a book written in 1916.

The idea of paying for someone else’s shopping, or dinner, or even a takeaway coffee is a lovely one, and like most good deeds, gives the person doing the good deed an amazing feeling. You might imagine that the receiver would be surprised and maybe grateful, but it doesn’t really matter – as long as they know that someone they don’t know and likely will never know, gave them a gift with no expectations of thanks or gratitude. Maybe they will pay the gift forward, maybe not. It doesn’t really matter.

When we had bushfires a few months ago, a cafe close enough to the fire zone opened up an online ‘pay a coffee forward’ option so that people could gift a cup of coffee to emergency services workers. They were overwhelmed with people wanting to pay for a cup of coffee for exhausted workers, and had to close it down when they were getting more donors than they had people accepting the free coffees.

But I also read a Facebook post from the wife of a firefighter, who told the story about how her husband wouldn’t go and get a free cup of coffee, as it was his opinion that he was just doing his job and didn’t need gifts to do it. The wife told him that the coffee wasn’t the point – the point was all the people who could do nothing else to help, but wanted to contribute in some way. He sent her a photo of his free cup of coffee the next day.

There is apparently a Pay It Forward Day, but I’d like to think that the whole concept revolves around it happening when people least expect it.

Paying it forward is not just about paying money forward – it can be gratitude, compliments, encouragement, actions (like returning shopping trolleys for people who have left them, picking up other people’s doggy-doo’s), phone calls, cooking biscuits or cakes, and so on. In googling the topic, I found multiple websites giving out long lists of things you can do to ‘pay it forward’.

When it comes to our environment, every conscious step we make towards recycling or cleaning up rubbish or fixing or repurposing something – is paying it forward for our future generations.

Every time you pay attention to a child and listen to their stories, you are paying forward the concept of community.

I was a little bemused by some of the ideas that were put forward as ways people could pay it forward, because I actually think it’s how we should all be acting as human beings anyway.

So sure – let’s all have a go at paying it forward this week, but in the meantime let’s endeavour to do the things each and every day that aren’t part of a global niceness campaign.

Every day, in every way, we should:

Smile at strangers;

Offer up our seats for those who need it more than us;

Donate unwanted items to those who need them;

Give credit where it is due;

Say ‘yes’ when someone asks for help;

Help someone pursue their dream;

Pick up rubbish;

Be nice to customer service workers;

Be forgiving;

Give some words of encouragement;

Listen to someone’s story;

And – if you see an opportunity to do a good deed, don’t even think about it – do it.

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