The Pay It Forward movement is an international initative to spread kindness and compassion to others in our daily interactions as much as we can. Acts of kindness and good deeds ripple out. And they often make people feel good, while making a difference in the world. If we spent more time lifting each other up instead of tearing people down, the world could become a better place for everyone in it. There’s a positive chain reaction to kindness. And rather than having a Pay It Forward day, consider paying it forward every single day for the rest of your life. In this article, we’re going to share 13 ideas to start paying it forward.
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13 ideas to start paying it forward
1. Practice active listening when someone is speaking
One way to pay it forward is to practice active listening when someone is either speaking to you or pouring their heart out to you. We have a tendency to offer solutions when people only want to feel heard. So, before your mind starts wandering thinking of what you can do to help or say to cheer someone up, just listen. Hear their words as they are. Let them finish their thought before thinking of what to say. Imagine how hard it must be to want comfort in our lives, but only getting practical solutions. People more often than not know what they need to do. But need the mental support before making the call. Spread kindness by listening intently to the words people say and show empathy when they finish speaking.
2. Praise your coworkers when they do a good job
Work relationships can make or break your mental health. Fast-paced environments can be filled with competition and toxicity, which makes working with people challenging and sometimes unbearable. If you want to pay it forward, challenge yourself to be vocal with praise when your coworkers do a good job. Call out high praise when someone shares an accomplishment in a meeting. Leave comments on Slack when someone shares a win. Tell your boss the good work your colleagues are doing behind their backs. Most people resort to gossip, name calling, and other bad behaviors. However, if you regularly sing high praises of everyone around you (even those difficult people), you’ll slowly change the team dynamic in the company.
3. Buy a homeless person a meal
Heading to a coffee shop? It’s a good place to start paying it forward. You can buy a gift card and tell people to spend and pass it on to the person after them. Also, homeless people often sit outside coffee shops. Before you head inside to make your order, ask if they’d like anything. If they say no, don’t press them. If they say yes, ask them if they’d like a coffee, meal, or even milk for their pet cat. Poverty can strike anyone at anytime. So helping people with a simple gesture of helping pay for their coffee or meal is a simple way to help others without causing any feelings of shame.
4. Donate money to a food bank
Food poverty is rising as the cost of goods rise. However, when most people donate to food banks, they donate the food items they don’t like or that are nearly expired. Most people donate the junk from their cupboards instead of the foods people enjoy consuming. You can raise awareness for a food bank by donating money to your local one and asking people to match your donation. You might put a call out in the newspaper for your donation to encourage others to donate money to the food bank as well. You don’t need a pay it forward day or special occasion to get started. You can start doing this any time.
5. Help someone with a project
Pay it forward activities can also include helping someone with a project. For example, if a second-time mom is about to give birth with twins, you might help her decorate the nursery. Or, if a friend wants to raise awareness for an organization, you might help them fundraise or join their team to help them. A local business hosting a charity drive might need volunteers for a day to help load items into trucks, wrap holiday gifts, or write hand-written cards for receivers. If you look at your community Facebook group or newspaper, you’ll likely see call-outs for help with projects, tasks, and charity events. You don’t always need to trade your time for money, sometimes just trading your time can help other people a lot.
6. Donate blood
When you’re healthy and strong, you can pay it forward by donating blood to your local blood bank a few times each year. Alternatively, when you register your health card or driver’s license, you can also enroll to be an organ donor in case of accidental death. When you think about it, it’s actually hard to find organ donors. A person has to be in the hospital at the time of death. They need to be healthy enough that their organs are in good condition. And they need to be a match for someone who currently needs it. So few people ever register to donate blood and organs. It could be fear that holds people back. But this is a great way to pay it forward after you’ve died. Donating blood can also be beneficial for you too. Studies show that regular blood donation lowers your risk of heart attack.
7. Write appreciation cards for everyone you know
Investing in a stash of thank you cards is always worth it. When you’re feeling a need to pay it forward, write appreciation cards for everyone you know: family, friends, neighbours, coworkers, and other people you interact with. Write several reasons why you love them and value you them. Let them know why you appreciate them. One day, you may miss out on an opportunity to let them know how you feel about them. So, write those cards to express your appreciation and gratitude for people in your life. You may help them see themselves more positively. And they’ll feel better about themselves, too.
8. Babysit for an exhausted parent
It’s common for new parents or parents with multiple young children to feel overwhelmed or exhausted in their caregiving. Sometimes, they just need a break. But finding someone they can trust, with free time, and who gets along with their kids can be a tough task. You can pay it forward by offering to let their kids stay with you for a few hours or an overnight sleepover with your kids, so that parents could get a night to themselves. This good deed could go a long way, particularly if you notice their parents are burnt out, having difficulties in other parts of their lives, or are caring for sick parents.
9. Leave positive reviews for purchases you liked
A little kindness can go a long way. It’s so easy to write a scathing review of a business when we’re mad. However, if we focused on writing positive reviews on businesses and products we liked, instead of what we hated, we can help more businesses thrive. After all, running a business isn’t easy. And not all businesses are profitable. We assume they are because we gave them our service. But most businesses are actually small. Spread kindness by leaving detailed reviews with pictures, videos, and other details to help other people understand what they can expect from their purchase and this business. Pay it forward when you enjoyed eating a meal at a restaurant or shopping at an online store.
10. Leave a positive reference for a coworker on LinkedIn
In the spirit of positive reviews, you can also leave a positive reference for your coworkers on LinkedIn. On your one year anniversary at a company, you can spend time to write kind, thoughtful, and praise-worthy references for your coworkers on LinkedIn. That way, when someone looks for their next role, they have a list of recommendations from colleagues on their profile already. You could help colleagues who may be at risk of layoffs, terminations, or restructuring. When layoffs at your company happen, spend time to write kind job references for employees who were laid off to help them land their next gig. You could also engage with their posts by liking and commenting on it to help them gain more visibility.
11. Forgive someone who made a mistake
You could also pay it forward by forgiving someone who hurt you, made a mistake, or did something they shouldn’t have. In our lives, people have forgiven us for our wrongdoings. People give us the benefit of the doubt all the time. We accidentally sleep in during our friend’s event, or a last minute emergency comes up and we have to cancel on someone. There have been plenty of times where even with our best intentions, we messed up. Give people the benefit of the doubt too. Know that even bad decisions can be learned from. And understand that it’s not your responsibility to evoke karma for people. So, instead, forgive people. You don’t need to let people walk all over you or disrespect you. However, understanding that everyone messes up and has flaws is key to acceptance.
12. Volunteer at a retirement home
As people grow older, they have fewer friends and family members alive. Their children, if they had any, are likely busy with their children and their own families. If you can afford to spare some of your time volunteering, consider volunteering at a retirement home. You’ll need to pass a background check for security reasons. However, once you do, you can spend time with people and offer your time to people who may feel lonely. Your acts of services could help someone enjoy the last few years of their life. You might even realize how to treat others based on how others treat the elderly. You might learn to accept nature and how it changes in all the seasons of our life. Gaining insight into the future could also help you become more aware of how you treat your body and mind as you grow older. So, visit or volunteer at a retirement home to pay it forward, and contribute your time to gain some knowledge and perspective.
13. Wish your Facebook friends a happy birthday
So many people make a big deal of their birthday but in the end, end up disappointed because hardly anyone noticed or cared about it. Every single day, check the Events tab on Facebook to see who’s celebrating a birthday. Send birthday wishes to every single person without expecting anything in return. If possible, go big when celebrating friend’s birthdays to make them feel special. It’s about celebrating the moments of people’s lives while they’re still here.
You can do countless pay it forward activities on Pay it Forward day or every day of the year. Your good deed will ripple out when you pay forward the kindness that’s been shown to you over your lifetime. And if you haven’t seen much kindness, it’ll start bouncing back towards you as you start the kindness chain reaction. Paying it forward is just the starting point of creating global change for the better. A simple kind act or two done daily can spark a trend for kindness to make the world a better place.
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