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Do something good for someone, and ask nothing in return
Paying it forward is a concept that seems to be dead among most people in today’s society, but it was a good idea that should be brought back into common practice.
The “pay it forward” concept was popularized by a 2000 movie of the same title featuring Kevin Spacey, Helen Hunt and Haley Joel Osment.IMDB gives the plot as this: “Young Trevor McKinney, troubled by his mother’s alcoholism and fears of his abusive but absent father, is caught up by an intriguing assignment from his new social studies teacher, Mr. Simonet. The assignment: think of something to change the world and put it into action. Trevor conjures the notion of paying a favor not back, but forward–repaying good deeds not with payback, but with new good deeds done to three new people. Trevor’s efforts to make good on his idea bring a revolution not only in the lives of himself, his mother and his physically and emotionally scarred teacher, but in those of an ever-widening circle of people completely unknown to him.”
After the movie a lot of people latched onto the idea of paying things forward instead of back. Rather than expecting to do something in kind for them when they did a good deed, they would ask the person to repay the kindness to some other individual, thus spreading the kindness and joy rather than simply returning it to the sender. Unfortunately the burst of forward-moving kindness was short-lived, like many movie-based fads.
I always liked the “pay it forward” idea, and I still wish there were more people that lived with that intention. Unfortunately we live in a very greedy, self-oriented society where people only give when they feel they can get something back. The concept of doing something good for another person and never personally getting anything back from it is alien to many, and downright offensive to some. However, the few people that give without the desire to receive seem to live happy lives full of good things.
Part of the idea in paying something forward is that not only is the person you did something kind for going to move on and do something good for someone else, as the giving continues to move forward, it will eventually return to the original person, with interest. If we all were to do good things for others and ask nothing in return, as we impress that notion on others, we would be creating a more loving, giving world, and that would in time benefit everyone in the world.
It’s unfortunate that we live in a world that has taught us nothing is ever free. For every thing we receive, we must give that much or more. We are trained into the belief that if you do something for someone, you’d better get something out of it, or why do something good when you’ll never get anything from it? We also find ourselves in a time where gratitude is not shown as it should be. Many people take, thinking that they are entitled for some reason or another, and they never return anything to the people who have aided them, or anyone else. I’m sure even the best of us have fallen victim to these feelings at one time or another, and have not done something kind for someone else because we feel it will never be repaid to us, not even with a thank you.
Just for a moment though, imagine if this trend caught on again. Imagine you helped someone with a flat tire, and when they offered to pay you, you replied with “Don’t pay me, just do something equally as kind for someone else”, and you went about your way. And imagine that they actually did do something as kind for someone else, and remembering you, used a similar phrase on this new person. If we all did good deeds and asked people to pay it forward, imagine the change it could make in the world. Perhaps it would be worthwhile to resurrect this idea and begin spreading it again. The positive impact might be greater than we could ever imagine.