I don't often pay as much attention to this concept as I should. Today I remembered it because of an anonymous person who did something incredibly nice for me. Because I could not thank them I came home and looked up Paying it Forward and Random Acts of Kindness.
I have made some amazing discoveries I wanted to share but first a definition. One of the best ones could find on the internet came from WiseGeek:
"One of the most important things to remember about paying it forward is that it should be done with a selfless spirit. This means you help another person without hoping for repayment or good deeds in return. In fact, there are some organizations that allow people to pay it forward anonymously, donating money or performing good deeds without hoping for recognition. As far as the receiver of the money, gift, or good deed is concerned, he or she is told only to pay it forward." "Paying it forward doesn't have to mean giving a large some of money or expending a lot of effort. It could be as simple as holding the door for someone laden with bags or giving up your place in line to someone who appears in a rush. It could even mean spending a little cash on coffee for the person behind you in line at a coffee house. For those who have money they can afford to give, there are always people in need, but even the smallest, free gestures can make a difference."
Paying it forward is a concept that is older than you might think. In a letter Benjamin Franklin (1706–1790) wrote to Benjamin Webb on 22 Apr 1784, he requested the following…
“I do not pretend to give such a Sum; I only lend it to you. When you [...] meet with another honest Man in similar Distress, you must pay me by lending this Sum to him; enjoining him to discharge the Debt by a like operation, when he shall be able, and shall meet with another opportunity. I hope it may thus go thro' many hands, before it meets with a Knave that will stop its Progress. This is a trick of mine for doing a deal of good with a little money.”
Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803–1882) in his essay "Compensation", wrote:
"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."
Wayne Woodrow “Woody” Hayes (1913–1987) was an Ohio State University football coach won five national titles and 13 Big Ten championships in 28 years. He misquoted Emerson as having said:
"You can pay back only seldom. You can always pay forward, and you must pay line for line, deed for deed, and cent for cent."
He also shortened the (mis)quotation into "You can never pay back; but you can always pay forward" and variants.
Robert Anson Heinlein (1907–1988), an American science fiction writer, used the term “pay it forward”'Between Planets'. in his 1951 book,
Paul Erdős (1913-1996), a brilliant Hungarian mathematician who published more papers than any other mathematician in history, working with hundreds of collaborators. In one of his visits to Harvard University, met a promising young math student on the verge of expulsion for inability to pay his tuition. Erdős paid the young man's tuition in full. Years later, the man offered to return the entire amount to Erdős, but Erdős insisted that the man rather find another student in his situation, and give the tuition to him.
Catherine Ryan Hyde wrote the book, 'Pay It Forward', published in 2000. It was made into a movie of the same name. Her book differs from the original philosophy by describing an obligation to do three good deeds in repayment of one good deed that a person receives. These deeds should be things that the other person can not do on their own. This philosophy would then spread exponentially throughout mankind with an end goal of making the world we live in a better place for everyone.
In April 2009 Pay it Forward even made its way to Craigslist and Youtube. A simple craigslist posting said:
"I can help you with groceries, give you a ride if you need one..."
Gretchen Rubin of The Happiness Project has a different spin on this in her post "Happiness Myth No. 7: Doing “Random Acts of Kindness” Brings Happiness" and surprisingly, I don't agree with her that this is just a myth. It's a very thought provoking and interesting read, especially the comments. I particularly like this one commenter who said: