Now that the picture of the cute doggy has your attention, let’s talk about the concept of Paying It Forward. The idea behind this is that if you do something kind for someone, then they will do something kind, and the chain will never end until everyone has received and given an act of kindness. This theory became popular with the 2000 film titled Pay It Forward. The most frequent implementation of paying it forward seems to be done in drive thru lines. Many people love the idea of surprising the person behind them by paying for their meal, and many more people love scoring free food. However, I will be the first to say that I am not a fan of this method of paying it forward.
Now before you go thinking I’m mean and uncaring, hear me out. Just the other day, I was reading an article about a young man who was publicly shamed by restaurant employees for ending a “pay it forward drive thru chain”. The young man explained that while he was thankful someone else had paid for his meal, he could not afford to pay $45 for the entire car behind him. He added that he only had $15 which was going to buy his breakfast and get him through. My heart broke for this young man who has also now been shamed virally for breaking the chain. Frankly, I think he had every right to break the chain, and I think it was in direct opposition of the pay it forward concept to shame him. After all is it really showing kindness and compassion if you’re going to make people who don’t participate feel guilty or you guilt people into participating?
For me showing kindness and compassion are not things you do to get someone else to do the same things. You show them to care about other people. That said, here are some ideas on how to show kindness without buying food for the person behind you:
1. Call a school system and offer to pay off a family’s lunch charges.
2. Send money to a school doing a book fair so that those who can’t afford to shop get the opportunity to buy a book.
3. Volunteer! Help out at an animal shelter, homeless shelter, donation center, etc.
4. Deliver meals to senior citizens and/or those who are homebound.
5. Donate books to Little Libraries.
6. Donate food to blessing boxes.
7. Go and visit with people in a nursing home. If you have a skill, see if that skill could be used to bring them joy.
There are a lot of ways that you can show kindness without making others feel guilty because they can’t contribute. Plus, maybe more people would do random acts of kindness if they felt they were voluntary and not an obligation. I’d love to know which you prefer: random acts of kindness or the pay it forward model.
The Great Kaysby