Paying it Forward

One of the most lasting stories of hope is one that we call paying it forward. The concept is that we return kindness given to us by paying it forward to another person. Paying it forward was brought to our conscious by a popular movie in 1999. But the concept of paying it forward has a much earlier origin.

In 317 BC, a popular play in Greece used paying it forward as a theme. In the Bible (Matthew 18:21-35), Jesus states that paying it forward is an expectation for all those who have received God’s forgiveness.

Benjamin Franklin in 1784 introduced the concept of lending a deed rather than giving it. The deed could only be returned by lending the deed to another. Ralph Waldo Emerson used the theme of paying it forward in 1841 in one of his essays.

The novelist, Lily Hardy Hammond, introduced the concept of paying it forward as an inter-generational concept where children pay forward the teaching of life values from their parents to their children. Other authors have used the same theme.

The paying it forward concept became more well known when a novel by Catherine Ryan Howard was made into a movie. In the movie, those who receive a good deed are obligated to pay forward three good deeds. This approach presents paying it forward as an ever-expanding concept.

Paying it forward has become a social movement. The Pay It Forward Movement and Foundation has been created to encourage the forwarding of kindness. Some investors and benefactors use the pay it forward model for leveraging their investments for the public good. Other foundations and community programs have adopted the model of extending good deeds.

What began as a play before the birth of Jesus has now become a model for expanding kindness worldwide. That perhaps is one key element in restoring civility as a global norm.

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“Gifts aren’t to be paid back, they’re to be paid forward.” – Cedric Crawford (Motivational Speaker)

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