Pay it forward is an old concept that is gaining new momentum. The idea behind it is simple – someone does a good deed and in turn the recipient does a good deed for someone else. Stories have gone viral of someone buying someone else’s morning coffee and pattern continuing all day. I love the idea of a simple gesture restoring faith in humanity. I want in! In 2007 April 30th was established as Pay it Forward day in Australia and in just 7 years has expanded to nearly 70 countries. The next pay it forward day is 332 days away. I didn’t want to wait that long. I wanted to get started today – so I did.
I started small. I simply asked to pay for the order behind me as well when I drove through to get my morning coffee. Their order was $1.78, small change to me and probably to the recipient, but hopefully the gesture will inspire much more. My mind was racing, what else could I do? I spent the rest of my commute brainstorming.
1) My commute does not include tolls, but a lot of people drive through multiple tolls, daily. You could pay the toll for the car behind you. If your car is anything like mine, this could likely be done with the spare change in between your car seats.
2) Donate your leftovers. This is something I learned from a vendor I had dinner with in New York. We had just finished an incredibly over-indulgent fancy dinner, with even more leftovers on the table than in our already swollen stomachs. The vendor had asked to have the leftovers wrapped up. I assumed he was taking the food home to his high school aged boys, who would likely gobble it up even quicker than we did. While we were walking to the corner to flag down a cab, I noticed he put the bags of food on top of an old telephone booth. When I asked what he was doing, he casually said, ‘leaving a meal for someone who didn’t have dinner.’ This gesture had always touched me. I live in the suburbs and don’t have a visible homeless population close by, but whenever I travel to urban areas of work, I have adopted this practice.
3) Use your BOGO (buy one get one) coupons, when you are by yourself. If you live in an urban area you could give your free meal to someone in need. If you live in a rural area area that does not have a visible homeless population, simply ask if the free item can be applied to the next person to order that particular item. I have not tested this, so I’m not certain if the store will do it, but it’s worth a try!
4) Blessing bags – these could be a whole post in themselves. I originally saw this on a friend’s Facebook post. Basically you take a large Ziplock bag an fill it with essentials and give it to a homeless person: a toothbrush, toothpaste, soap, a couple granola bars, comb and a bottle of water. My husband and I actually did this one Easter. In our old house we often saw the same homeless man on a particular exit from the express way. After returning home from Easter Brunch, full, my husband asked if I would like to run an errand. We pulled up to the grocery store where I watch him assemble a bag like I just described. Then we dropped it off for the man, who was incredibly appreciative. If you travel a lot, the basics of the bag can be started with the complimentary items in your hotel room.
5) Tape a $1 to a vending machine with a post it note saying – ‘your treat is on me.’ You will likely never see the recipient, which is sometimes the best part! Hopefully, the recipient will find some way to pass on your kindness.
Those are just a few small ways to get involved, but I dream big. I go overboard. I jump to conclusions. I spend my life getting ahead of myself. Vices? Often yes (& I have many more), but ultimately I believe it depends on how I use them. That is part of the reason I have started this blog. I LOVE planning parties. Graduating college I wanted to go into event coordination. I ended up getting a good job on the buying side of retail and became passionate about my career. Over a decade later, I’m still in corporate America and I have often wondered about the road not traveled. I also come from a family where giving back is important and quite simply the goal is to leave the world a better place – which in this day and age can seem like an impossible task. I thought maybe, just maybe, I could start a blog where I write about my passion, that eventually started to generate a little money. I could then use that money to throw dream parties for those who need a good day. It could be an elaborately themed birthday party for a kid spending their birthday at Children’s Hospital, a home-cooked Thanksgiving meal for the homeless, I could coordinate a run with a specific charity in mind – the options are endless. I’m not there, yet, but there are things I can do now. I call them parties with a purpose.
My daughter has a early December birthday. Between her birthday and Christmas she is showered with more toys than most kids ever see. On her 4th birthday I asked her if she wanted to donate any toys to a kid who didn’t have any toys? I didn’t want to make a big deal about it or force her to give up her toys. I just wanted to see what she would say. She thought for a moment, asked a thousand follow-up questions about why someone wouldn’t have toys and then she went to work sorting through her toys. Here is the pile she decided to donate. I was touched that she was so generous and this has become an annual tradition for her. This year we dropped the toys off at the police station where the officers distributed the toys to kids spending the holidays with their mother at a battered women’s shelter. The police mailed her a thank you note and an honorary police badge. I think that letter and badge brought her more joy than playing with the toys!
Friendsgiving – a Thanksgiving celebration with friends has become more and more popular over the last decade. I always think it would be fun to use the day designated to overindulgence to highlight that some people don’t even have enough to get by, much less indulge. You could use your Thanksgiving or Friendsgiving celebration as an opportunity to collect food for those in need. Whatever dish you bring, you also bring the ingredients to donate. For example, if it’s your year to bring the green bean casserole, you also bring a few cans of green beans and condensed soup to donate.
Poker night could even be used as a platform to do some good too. Chips could be given out for each can of food donated or you could do a 50/50 raffle with half the pot going toward a specific charity. The list of options is infinite.
I saw a hand-painted sign at the store the other day with a simple message, ‘Believe There is Good in the World.’ A very idealistic message for sure. But then I took a closer look at the layout of the sign and the words in blue. “Be the Good.” Now that was a call to action! We can’t sit and gripe about how the world has changed and become cold. Each of us need to take it upon ourselves to inspire the change we want to see. BE THE GOOD! This message runs parallel with the Pay it Forward concept – inspiring just a little good can turn into something bigger!
I don’t know if I will ever reach my goal of working in the event planning arena or if this blog will even become a means to support my family and my dream of donating parties. That shouldn’t stop me from doing what I can today to spread just a little joy or bring a smile to someone’s face. I will BE THE GOOD!
I’d love to hear your pay it forward ideas!