The last Thursday in April marks International Pay It Forward Day, a celebration of altruism and the good of humanity. In 2015, people from 75 countries participated in Pay it Forward Day inspiring more than 5 million acts of kindness to date. This year marks the movement's 10 year anniversary with a goal to hit 10 million random acts.
The practice involves regular people performing acts of kindness for others without expecting anything in return. Instead, they will pay it forward and do the same for someone else to create a ripple effect of generosity. The global phenomenon has inspired over 50 state and city proclamations for the day in the United States alone. What can you do?
1. Pay for someone's cup of coffee
Buying a cup of coffee (or tea in my case) for a stranger is one of the easiest ways to do good and feel good. A gratis warm cup of Joe could be enough to make an angry businessman's day or help lift a displaced person's spirits.
Some countries encourage suspended coffee, or caffe sospeso, which asks that when customers buy coffee they also pay in advance for a cup to be given to someone else. The recipient is usually someone who otherwise couldn't afford it.
2. Buy a meal for the homeless
If you often walk by the same stranger sitting outside of the grocery store or restaurant begging for some money, it may be likely that they are looking to get themselves food for the day. While we don't know what their circumstances are, it's nice to offer this stranger a meal. It can be as simple as going inside and grabbing a handful of fruits or a sandwich from the deli.
Another quick step in the right direction is finding a local homeless shelter and trading in your lunch hour to volunteer at theirs. You'll still get to provide the gift of a warm meal without paying for it yourself.
3. Offer someone a ride
On a rainy, snowy or extra sizzling hot day, there is nothing better than finding a friend who is willing to give you a lift to your next stop. Especially if they're on the way to where you're going, this is a simple do-good task that will contribute making someone's day a little more bearable.
This act of kindness is a fit for those who are rather trusting if you choose to help a stranger. And you never know, you may make yourself a new lifelong friend.
4. Donate to a charity or philanthropy
Whether you've got $1 or $1 billion, giving funds to a cause you're passionate about is a great way to tap into the kindness of your heart. Opt out of your second cup of coffee for the day and opt in to reap the rewards of contributing dollars to helping programs, people and movements grow. A quick hack is shopping via Amazon Smile instead of its usual platform to streamline a percentage to the organization of your choice.
You don't have to be wealthy to make a difference. If you have more time than money, you can also host a philanthropy to raise funds while gathering your community together.
5. Use your business
If you're a leader among your company, you can use your influence for good to start a movement of your own that will contribute to 10 million acts. DoubleTree by Hilton, for example, is launching #NiceTravels, a multichannel movement driving random acts of kindness - complete with giveaways, contests and a photo mosaic - to prove that "nice" is contagious.
On a smaller scale, some businesses can even let their employees take a personal day in exchange for community service hours. Others have started to host collection drives for funds or goods to donate to their local organizations.
Kindness is dubbed a natural anti-depressant because it can cause a release of serotonin in our brain. Serotonin plays an important part in learning, memory, mood, sleep, health and digestion. These acts can also heighten our sense of wellbeing, increase overall energy and give us an overwhelming feeling of positivity and self-worth.
Today, I challenge you to pledge to pay it forward and to eventually turn it into a habit. Each act will get us closer to 10 million.
Visit www.payitforwardday.com to learn more.