The Power of Paying it Forward

The Power of Paying it Forward | Point of View Raymond JamesPaying it Forward

Imagine you’re at the drive-through of your favorite coffee shop, waiting for the barista to deliver your triple espresso. As you hand her your card, she waves you off. “Oh don’t worry about it; the person ahead of you paid.” A warm feeling rushes over you, but the kind stranger has already driven off. So you pay for the next person in line as a karmic thank you. And just like that you’ve paid it forward. Or backward, as it were.

In late 2014, a woman kicked off an 11-hour-long string of 378 customers who did just that at a Florida Starbucks. This random act of kindness made the national news and made hundreds of coffee lovers a little bit happier that day. This is just one example of the “paying it forward” movement spreading across the country.

The simple idea isn’t new, but social and mainstream media help incidents like this go viral, spawning copycat do-gooders. It only takes one person to help out a stranger and then encourage that person to do the same. There’s no money or time requirement, membership fee or weekly meeting. All you need is a sense of caring and goodwill.

Of course, social media gives this movement a 21st century spin. Shares, tweets, videos and blogs carry the feel-good message to like-minded people on Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, Reddit and other sites. As moments of paying it forward pop up in our feeds, we all see the heartwarming good this movement can do.

Take for instance, Ronal Bowes, who was part of a group of retired professors and others who drank coffee almost every morning at a particular KFC. Assistant Manager Jennie Slota, a full-time student at Lock Haven University, rushed in each day to open the store for the coffee club before heading to class. As she struggled to save enough for tuition, she took a semester off to earn more money. Then she got a special call. Bowes had paid her tuition for the next two years and requested that she “pay” him back by graduating and doing good deeds for others.

Then there’s the couple who left their stressed server $100 – a 150% tip – despite having received poor service. The receipt on which they wrote, “We’ve both been in your shoes. Paying it forward,” received more than 1.5 million likes on Facebook.

Even kids can get in on the act. Thirteen-year-old Jacob Anders, a cancer survivor, asked the Make-a-Wish Foundation to pay it forward in a big way. Inspired by his twin cousins with autism, he wished for a recreation center to be built for children with special needs. With the support of Make-a-Wish Indiana, Kentucky and Ohio, funding is being raised to make his selfless wish a reality.

Should you be so inclined, your family’s random acts of kindness could be as simple as covering the toll for the car behind you during busy traffic or giving your umbrella to someone caught in bad weather. There’s no limit to the ways you can make a positive change in your community. The satisfaction that comes from giving to others doesn’t need to be centered on the holidays or some special occasion. These small acts of kindness can become a part of your family’s routine, creating a ripple effect of positivity that reverberates for a long time.

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