Why You Should Pay It Forward

As a semi-broke college student, the word "pay" often invokes a response of "no" unless it has something to do with my own needs and wants. If you are on any sort of tight budget, you can probably relate. It's not that I don't want to help people, but rather that I feel like I don't have the money or the time and that my actions don't make a difference.

There is an endless supply of misery and negativity in this world. Violence, hatred and injustice are seemingly at every turn. Simply scrolling through the news or our social media feeds can leave us emotionally weary. How could a random act of kindness make a positive difference in the world? The answer is so simple that we may not even realize it is the answer. Jon Foreman of Switchfoot puts it this way:

"Is this the world you want? You're making it every day you're alive." -- Switchfoot ("The World You Want")

As citizens of this planet, we are making the world what it is through our daily actions and inactions. Every day, we have countless opportunities to impact the people around us, either positively or negatively. Most of the time it's easier to stay apathetic. If we're not a part of the solution however, we may actually find ourselves to be part of the problem.

Every day we have the opportunity to help make the world a better place for others and ourselves. We only need to seize the opportunity and act. One way is to pay it forward or, in other words, commit random acts of kindness. Official Pay it Forward Day is April 30th this year, but random acts of kindness don't have to, nor should they be, limited to that one day.

I challenge you to make an effort to make someone's day today and every day. You don't have to spend a lot of time or money. Do not underestimate the power of small good deeds. There are plenty of activities you can do to pay it forward, and feel free to get creative. Here is a list to get you started:

  • Pay for the order behind you in the drive-through.
  • Leave encouraging notes/drawings on the shelves at the grocery store or the library.
  • Send cards to teachers, longtime friends, the mailman, your plumber, your lawn care company.
  • Donate some toiletries/clothes/money/books to individuals in need or reputable charities.
  • Listen to someone (and don't just try to solve all their problems.)
  • Tell some jokes to a person that looks down in the dumps.
  • Volunteer to visit patients in hospitals or nursing homes.
  • Give a bottle of water or a can of soda to someone working outside on a hot day.
  • Leave a coupon near its corresponding product at the grocery store.
  • Call or text a friend you haven't seen or talked to recently.
  • Spend a little time at FreeRice.com.
  • Let someone with only a few items or nagging kids cut you in line at the checkout.
  • Bring food to someone you know is sick or grieving.
  • Donate blood -- you may just save a life.
  • Share your umbrella with a stranger on a rainy day.
  • Compliment a stranger unexpectedly.
  • Tip your waiter or waitress generously and treat them courteously.
  • Leave a little change (even if it's just a dollar bill) on shelves at the store.
  • Cut coupons and send them to military families through an organization such as this one.
  • Put extra quarters in a parking meter that is going to expire soon.