The phrase ‘Pay It Forward’ may originate from Lily Hardy Hammond’s 1916 book, In the Garden of Delight, which contains the quote “You don’t pay love back; you pay it forward.”
The book and film
However, the modern Pay It Forward movement probably started with another book some 83 years later. Catherine Ryan Howard’s novel, entitled Pay It Forward, has as its central character a 12-year-old boy called Trevor. When asked by his social studies teacher to come up with ideas that will change the world for the better, Trevor proposes a scheme whereby people carry out random acts of kindness for three different people. These three recipients of the favour then go on to carry out their own three good deeds, and the idea is then that a great many people will all be doing good deeds for another person who is in need.
As Lily Hardy Hammond said, when you benefit from a good deed under the Pay It Forward scheme, the idea is not that you repay the person who did you a favour, but that you select three other people who you believe would benefit from a favour.
Pay It Forward then went global in 2000 when the Catherine Ryan Howard novel was made into a blockbuster film, where Haley Joel Osment played Trevor, alongside Helen Hunt and Kevin Spacey.
Pay It Forward Day
The film ultimately spawned an international Pay It Forward movement. On Pay It Forward Day each year, people across the world are encouraged to carry out three random acts of kindness. When doing each good deed, the person should then ask the recipient to carry out their own three acts of kindness the same day.
In 2018, Pay It Forward Day is on Saturday April 28, and with 85 countries now participating, the organisers aim to inspire more than 10 million acts of kindness worldwide.
What could you do?
If you’re inspired to get involved, what could you do on Pay It Forward Day?
- Pay for the items being purchased by the next person in the queue
- Buy a homeless person a cup of coffee
- Host a community fundraising event
- Collect unwanted food and distribute it to needy groups
- Volunteer at a charity or other community organization
- Donate your blood
- Do some babysitting
- Inspire someone to take up a new hobby
- Offer your seat on the bus or train
- Mow the lawn of your elderly neighbor
- Write a letter to someone who made a positive impact in your life, letting them know how much you appreciate it
- Simply give a donation to charity