I was having one of those grumpy days recently when I’d woken up in a bad mood and was really struggling to think and act positively. I went to the supermarket and as I was queuing up, the person in front of me gestured for me to go before them. I only had a few items and they had a big shop, so this saved me having to wait around. Their kind gesture and friendly, smiley manner really lifted my mood and put a smile back on my face. In fact, it made me want to go and do something nice for someone else.
This encounter reminded me of the concept of “paying it forward,” which is a topic I’ve been meaning to write about for a while.
The chain of kindness
You may have heard about people who do random acts of kindness, well “paying it forward” is similar in the sense that if someone does you a kindness, instead of returning the favour you then do something good for someone else with the hope that they will then carry it on. It’s like a chain of kindness.
The best way of paying it forward is to do your act of kindness anonymously, because it’s not all about getting kudos. Part of the fun is knowing that you’ve done something good and imagining the surprise and delight on the person’s face when they realise that a stranger has done something nice for them. It could really cheer someone up who might be having a bad day – it certainly worked with me!
If, however, someone realises what you’ve done and wants to repay you, make sure to ask them to do something good for someone else.
10 ways to pay it forward
Here are some ideas for how you can pay it forward. They’re just simple suggestions but they’re sure to make someone’s day and wouldn’t it be nice if they decided to pay it forward too!
1. Take some flowers to your local hospital or hospice and give them to someone who doesn’t have any.
2. Next time you’re driving through a toll booth, pay for the car behind you as well as your own toll.
3. If you see someone struggling with some heavy shopping, offer to help carry some of it.
4. Bake some cakes or biscuits and bring them in to share with your work colleagues. Better still, put one on everyone’s desk before they get in for work.
5. Give up your seat for someone on public transport.
6. If it’s your birthday, ask for donations to a charity instead of gifts or cards.
7. Sweep your neighbour’s drive or tidy up their garden for them.
8. Donate some cat or dog food to a local animal shelter.
9. Buy a lottery ticket and give it to a stranger.
10. Buy some food or drink for a homeless person.
I hope you might have been inspired to go out and pay it forward. I’d love to hear about any instances of kindness you might have experienced!
About the author: Liz Parry is a writer specialising in holistic health and wellbeing, personal development and spirituality. Follow her on Twitter.
First published in 2013; updated February 2022