Paying it forward – A Cascade of Cooperation

“No kind action ever stops with itself. One kind action leads to another. Good example is followed.  A single act of kindness throws out roots in all directions, and the roots spring up and make new trees. The greatest work that kindness does to others is that it makes them kind themselves.”~
Amelia Earhart 1897 – 1937, American aviation pioneer and author.

Many of you may have seen the movie ‘Pay It Forward’ based on the novel of the same name by Catherine Ryan Hyde.  Some like me, will have read the book.

This is a moving story about Trevor McKinney a 12-year-old boy in a small town.  His teacher gives the class a challenge and a chance to earn extra credit.  They have to come up with a plan to change the world for the better.  And they must put the plan into action.

Trevor does a favor for three people and when they ask how they can pay him back he tells them that instead of paying him back they should pay it forward.  They need to choose three people for whom they can do a favor and then tell those people to pay it forward.  I have seen it described as a human chain letter.

One good deed might not seem like much, but if everyone does something for even one other person then the cycle begins and like a pebble in a pond, will grow exponentially.  Hopefully in this way we can become better people with the world a better place in which to live.

In a letter to Benjamin Webb dated April 22 1784, Benjamin Franklin wrote:

“I do not pretend to give such a Sum; I only lend it to you. When you  meet with another honest Man in similar Distress, you must pay me by lending this Sum to him; enjoining him to discharge the Debt by a like operation, when he shall be able, and shall meet with another opportunity. I hope it may thus go thro’ many hands, before it meets with a Knave that will stop its Progress. This is a trick of mine for doing a deal of good with a little money.”

But one person can make a difference and the ripple effect can go on and on.  Look at this video to see how one man’s action started a chain reaction that changed the lives of seven other people.

I was reminded of this yesterday.  I had parked in town and thought I should be longer than I actually was.  When I returned to my car there was still 45 minutes unused on the ticket.  I offered it to the person waiting to take my park.  This woman was amazed that I would do this.  I suggested that in future if she found herself in the same situation she give the unused portion of parking to another person.  Hopefully she will do so.  Imagine the ripples of something this small.

Then think of other things to do.  I am a very active senior and so I can get about and do things for myself.  But others are not so lucky.

  • Can I take them to the store or go to the store for them?
  • Can I pick up somebody from my street who is walking to the store?
  • Can I pay for the coffee of another person in the store?
  • Can I put some change in a parking meter (we still have them in some streets in our city) when I see that the meter is expired?
  • Can I drive somebody to a doctor’s appointment – or a dentist or whatever?

The list is endless.  And none of these things cost a lot of money.

And what about volunteering?  Every charitable organization needs volunteers.  How can you help?  Can you give time to serve meals; read stories; help people in the final stages of their life write their stories?  There are plenty of things we can each do to make this a better time and place.

And if in helping somebody, that deed is recognized and passed on, we have made a start in the right direction.

Nobody can do everything, but everyone can do something.  ~Author Unknown

And another quote from my favorite author Lewis Carroll but this time from ‘Through the Looking Glass”

“Alice laughed. “There’s no use trying,” she said: “one can’t believe impossible things.”
“I daresay you haven’t had much practice,” said the Queen. “When I was your age, I always did it for half-an-hour a day. Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.”

And here is a gift for all of you who will pay it forward today:

Bouquet of roses


13 responses to “Paying it forward – A Cascade of Cooperation

  1. InsideJourneys

    This is a beautiful post, Judith!
    You’re so right: we can do a lot for a little. I’ll be doing that the next chance I get.

    Thanks, Judith!


  2. I love the movie Pay It Forward! I always give people my parking ticket if it has any time left on it and it always makes me laugh how surprised and pleased they are. One day last year I gave my ticket to a guy who was so happy he gave me his business card and said next time I was in his shop (just opposite) I should give the card to a staff member. A few weeks later I did and was rewarded with a huge hamper of chocolates and dates! Such a lovely surprise!


    • Hi and welcome Susan. Your story just goes to prove Jim Rohn’s theory that Giving is better than receiving because giving starts the receiving process.
      Jim Rohn


  3. Beautiful and thoughtful post! And the love the quotes, especially Amelia’s and Ben’s. You are such a good writer, Judith. Wish we could sit down with each other over a nice cup of Earl Grey.


    • Thanks Susan. I have put the kettle on. When will you be here?
      Dis you see the Jim Rohn comment that I posted in response to Susan above. I think that says it all.


  4. I love this post, Judith! That’s how I try to live too…



  5. Christine in Los Angeles

    Quite a coincidence that today’s blog by Frances Garrood ( covers this topic. I’ve told her we expect a future post on how.when she paid it forward,
    God bless, your “big” sister (who is dwindling awat to nothing.


  6. Thanks for continuing to read my blogs ‘big sister’. And there is no such thing as coincidence only synchronicity – obviously your other blogger friend had the same idea as me at the same time.


  7. I so love this post and embrace heartily the pay it forward mentality!!!


  8. Pingback: I choose how I will spend the rest of my life

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