Today is International Pay it Forward Day, based on a concept described by author Catherine Ryan Hyde in her book entitled “Pay It Forward”. In this book, a 12 year old boy implements his idea for changing the world by doing a good deed for three people, and asking each of them to “pay it forward” by doing a good deed for three more people. As each of the new people passes on the request for three more good deeds the number of people doing good deeds increases exponentially.
This concept is hardly new; I’ve read the stories about peace activists and their bumper sticker slogan: “Practice random kindness and senseless acts of beauty.” Join Me proclaimed every Friday Good Friday and urges joinees to perform random acts of kindness every Friday. The Random Acts of Kindness Foundation maintains a regular website, blog and has even awarded grants to non-profit organizations with big dreams of kindness. Most recently, Pay It Forward Day has established a website to support participants in their efforts to encourage global positivity one random good deed at a time.
What counts as a good deed? I’m sure you can think of many things that could be done. And those good deeds don’t need to be huge – even something small can brighten someone’s day. But in case you’re feeling less than creative today, here’s a list from both payitforwardday.com and actsofkindness.org:
? Buy a stranger a cup of coffee
? Pay for the person behind you (in a drive-through or in a toll booth)
? Give a stranger your umbrella when it’s raining
? Visit an elderly or disabled neighbor and offer to make small repairs or go shopping for/with them.
? Give your waiter or waitress a huge tip
? Top off someone’s parking meter so they don’t get towed or fined.
? Buy a homeless person some food
? Donate your professional services to someone who can’t afford them
? Mow your neighbors lawn when you mow yours
? Send a receptionist flowers
? Volunteer at a local non-profit
? Pick up litter during your lunch break
? If you live in Maine and it’s spring, help a turtle across the road
? Give out free hugs, Juan Mann style
Payitforwardday.com even has cards you can print out to leave with anonymous good deeds, encouraging the recipients to pay it forward.
But why participate? I can hear my more pessimistic friends insisting that this whole campaign is just another ridiculous optimistic farce. However, Allan Luks found that people who perform kind acts experience an increase in energy and reduction in stress and stress related symptoms such as chronic pain, headaches and fatigue. When you perform a kind act, your body responds by sending out a rush of endorphins similar to those released during orgasm. These endorphins reduce pain, relieve stress, and create an emotional feeling of satisfaction and euphoria.
So get out there today and Pay it Forward with your own version of a Random Act of Kindness. Need to know where to volunteer? Check out Volunteer Match for opportunities near Bangor, or search for a location nearer to your home town.