Pay it Forward

Imagine if you had the power to affect a complete stranger with a gracious action and transform his or her day. Some say every action produces a reaction. And so goes the benevolent gesture of “paying it forward,” the action of receiving a good deed and repaying the kindness by giving to another. And so on, and so on…

Pay it forward moments

I will never forget the first time I experienced a “pay it forward” moment. Fresh out of college and living in a new city, I drove across the Golden Gate Bridge on a foggy, cold and colorless morning. I reached the toll booth where the attendant shouted that the person ahead of me paid my toll. I was awestruck. The remainder of my drive had me contemplating the kindness of the stranger ahead of me. That single moment was huge. In a second, the fear of being in a strange new place softened and a jolt of positivity warmed my heart.

More recently in a fast food drive-thru line, the man ahead of me paid my bill. Then I looked behind and saw a frazzled mom at the helm of her packed minivan, so I paid her bill. It took some time for my rather large order to be filled and when the server delivered my bags, he told me the pay-it-backward was still happening in the line. How awesome is that?

Other examples

This feel-good phenomenon does not have to involve money. For instance, every so often a mysterious artist places a “yarn bomb” on a chain link fence at the freeway overpass on Lakeview Canyon, including a heart and a peace sign. I always feel warm and inspired when I see this randomly placed art. In fact, it prompted me to go to a park with a box of sidewalk chalk. I drew a hopscotch and a tic-tac-toe “board” and left the box of chalk. On the walk back to my car, I smiled when I heard some kids playing the games.

Such simple deeds can yield significant reactions, and amazingly cause a ripple effect throughout the community. Brene Brown shared in her world-renowned TED Talk that “the ability to feel connected is how we are wired neuro biologically. Connection is why we are here—it gives our lives meaning and purpose.” And it doesn’t have to be a special day or occasion. Any time is the perfect time to pay it forward or backward. BONUS: It feels just as good to give as it does to receive!


Take out the sidewalk chalk and draw a hopscotch game

Text a joke or compliment to an old friend

Send your favorite coach, boss or teacher a note to let them know of the positive impact they made on your life

Pay for someone’s toll or coffee

Feed an expired parking meter

Say hello or good day to all whom you pass on the street

Let the stressed-out person behind you in line take your place

Pick some fresh flowers and leave on a friend’s porch

Stand at a busy entrance, hold the door open and say HELLO

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