I remember seeing the movie Pay It Forward, starring Kevin Spacey, Helen Hunt, and Haley Joel Osment, in 2000. The movie plot and book, by the same name, was based on this one premise…do something for 3 people in response to a favor or gift that one receives. Those three people will then help three other people and the positive impact will increase geometrically.

The concept is not new, but it might be one that could be dusted off and remembered as the conclusion of 2016 approaches. Earlier contributions to this concept can be found in different places and times throughout history. Benjamin Franklin, in a letter to Benjamin Webb dated April 25, 1784, wrote, “I do not pretend to give such a deed. 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…I hope it may thus go thro ’many hands…”

The term “pay it forward” was coined by Lily Hardy Hammond in 1916 (In the Garden of Delight). She wrote, “You don’t pay love back; you pay it forward.” In 1944, an anonymous spokesman for Alcoholics Anonymous also wrote (Christian Science Monitor), “You can’t pay anyone back for what has happened to you, so you try to find someone you can pay it forward.”

Other important mentions include:

  • Robert Heinlein (Between Planets, 1951), who preached the pay it forward philosophy and developed the Heinlein Society, a humanitarian organization.
  • Ray Bradbury, who has made it a practice of helping other young writers, as he himself was helped.
  • The Pay It Forward Movement and Foundation, founded in the United States, has distributed over a million bracelets in over 100 countries.
  • International Pay it Forward Day,founded in Australia in 2007 by Blake Beattie, has inspired an estimated 5 million plus acts of kindness worldwide.

In a world that has become increasingly complex, divided, too technical and fast paced, we need to get back to the basics. I believe that finding the heart and soul in simple random acts of kindness can spread more goodwill than the promises we make to ourselves on the first of each year.

I propose for the coming year that we give ourselves the gift of kindness and PAY IT FORWARD.

Happy and Peaceful Holiday Season.