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Pay It Forward
One day last week Larry and I were in a big box store. We had purchased a few small items we needed and had just put them on the conveyer belt at the cashier. I was in my wheelchair because of my broken kneecap.
While my items were moving down the belt, suddenly a woman stepped in front of me and placed her items on the belt between me and my items.
“Excuse me,” I said, “Those are my items the cashier is about to ring up. Could you move so I can pay for them?
“No,” she said, with a big smile, I am going to pay for them for you!”
This totally surprised me! I hadn’t seen anyone pay-it-forward in twenty years. I remembered when this used to be so popular that they even made a movie—Pay It Forward where the entire storyline revolved around this activity.
I was speechless for a moment. I didn’t know what to say.
“Well, thank you.” I finally said. I didn’t want to say, “No, you can’t!”
The cashier rang up my items and handed me the bag.
“Thank you,” I said again.
“It was my pleasure,” she replied.
As we walked away, I noticed I was feeling very happy. Her generosity and kindness made me feel connected to my community. It felt good to know there were people around me who wanted to give for the sake of giving and supporting all humans. Now that day I happened to be in a wheelchair, so she may have thought I needed a little help. But the money wasn’t the point. It was her kindness and thoughtfulness that moved me.
I thought about writing a post about this for this blog and then didn’t because I didn’t have the physical strength that day, but then…it happened AGAIN!
Most mornings I go get a cup of organic coffee down the street from my local independent coffee shack. This morning when Larry handed them the two dollar bills they said, “Oh, you don’t have to pay today. Someone paid it forward!
Again I was surprised and pleased. especially now when we have so few opportunities to be human together and the economy is such a mess. To just have people I don’t even know pay for something for me is a delight.
And then it happened AGAIN!
Yesterday Larry drove me to physical therapy for my broken kneecap rehab and right near the office there was a cluster of four restaurants offering outdoor seating for lunch. So we tried one that we hadn't been to before. The lunch was delicious. At the end, the owner himself came over to our table and picked up the payment. And then he presented us with a $50 gift certificate!
But here’s the thing. It’s not just about receiving. It’s about giving too.
Pay it forward is an expression that describes the beneficiary of a good deed repaying the kindness to others instead of to the original benefactor.
As the image above shows, if I pay it forward for three people, and then each of those people pay it forward, then the good spreads and spreads and spreads.
This is an old concept that is at least 100 years old (the phrase may have been coined by Lily Hardy Hammond in her 1916 book In the Garden of Delight. In 1951 it was popularized author Robert Heinlein in his book Between Planets. The concept was paid forward by Heinlein many times over as he advised writers he helped to help other writers and moved in other directions as well through The Heinlein Society.
We intend in Heinlein’s words to “PAY IT FORWARD,” since we can never pay back the benefits we got from him, by spreading the wisdom of Robert Anson Heinlein to others.
Well, see, I didn’t know all this about this beautiful concept that I think should be used by everyone far and wide.
Here I am paying it forward to you. Please continue paying it forward.