Pay It Forward, Random Act of Kindness – Whatever You Call It, Let’s Do IT!

By now I’m sure you’ve heard of the Philly couple that bought a stranger’s meal at a diner and for 5 hours customers continued to pay it forward. It reminded me that I hadn’t bought someone’s coffee in a while now.

About once every two months or so (I wish it were more often but quite honestly I don’t always think of it) I pay for the order of the person behind me in the drive-through or pay the toll for the car behind me when we go to “the big city” (as my daughter likes to call it.) Suddenly, this morning I remembered that it had been awhile so when I got my coffee this morning I paid for the car behind me, as well. Her bill was only $3.18. Hmmmm, I gave the cashier a $20. I looked in my rear view mirror and there were no more cars to pay for. So, $3.18 for my good deed of the day felt a little lack luster. I suppose I was expecting a little more grand gesture – not that I’m made of money, mind you, but I’m a few months behind in my good deeds. I was atoning for my neglect.

When I make these gestures I rarely look back to see the reaction. I hope to make a quick get-away, quite frankly. But this time? No such luck. I was stopped by two traffic lights in a row and she caught up with me by the second light. She rolled down her window. She searched my face for some recognition. She found none. “Thank you for this,” she said, “You don’t know what this means to me. I’m on my way to an interview. I lost my job a month ago and I HAVE to find work. I’d given these up,” and she raised her cup, “but I decided to splurge today for a little boost of confidence. Your kindness has done so much more.”

I could see that her eyes were brimming and she was fighting back tears. I was stunned into silence. I never said a word to her, just listened. The light turned green and she smiled and drove away. $3.18. Here I was feeling guilty I had only payed it forward with 3 dollars and 18 cents. But that $3.18 provided a much-needed boost for a woman in a desperate situation – looking for work just before Christmas. It meant more to her than I ever imagined it would.

So this weekend I want you to do me a favor. Pay it forward with someone else. Whatever you can afford. If it’s a meal, a cup of coffee, a bus token…for a stranger. Someone you never expect to see again. Then come back here to this post and comment about what you’ve done. Or post about it on your blog- but be sure to come back here to link to it so we can all read about what you’ve done.

Random acts of kindness spread joy like wildfire. I think they have more power than negativity. Together we can make the world a little happier this weekend with our small gestures. (Borrowing from Bender in The Breakfast Club) If he does it, then we’ll all do it and it’ll be anarchy! Let’s start our own little version of anarchy! Are you with me?


Filed under Be-Causes, RAOK

35 responses to “Pay It Forward, Random Act of Kindness – Whatever You Call It, Let’s Do IT!

  1. Oh, Jane, this story made my morning! I’ve got a little chill from reading it.
    You’ve inspired me to spend this next week before Christmas trying more consciously to do this!

  2. What a wonderful story. And very inspiring. I am going to do as told and pay it forward now. I remember my best friend at camp would always put coins in the soda machine so the next person could get a free soda. I never quite understood that, but now I see it for what it was – true, unmarred kindness. Lovely post. Lovely reminder of the wildfire.

  3. What powerful story! It never occurred to me to do this, and now I can’t wait. What a simple gesture to make the world a better place!

    Thank you for stopping by my blog! I love yours, by the way.


    You made my cold black heart sing, here. I *might* have even gotten a lump in my throat.

    I’m also giggling because 1) I would totally do that thing where you try to speed away, trying to avoid an actual interaction with your PIF recipient. I probably would have run that red light, desperate for a clean getaway. 2) Only YOU would propose “Kindness Anarchy.” Giggle.

  5. evenshine

    Yes, yes, yes. Though my attempts at this are usually met with crashing failure- coffee dropped all over the person, change pushed back into my hand, free meal scowled at. I don’t have enough energy for belligerent kindness, but anarchy sounds great!

  6. evenshine

    And I’m NOT blog-stalking TKW. Promise!

  7. What a touching story and a great idea! I am going to try this weekend 🙂

  8. You have a beautiful soul. We tie candy canes with a thank you Christmas note on the trash sacks in December for the guys who collect all our nasty garbage. Does that count? I’ll try and step it up a bit this week.

  9. Wow! That’s awesome! You’re awesome.

    I once read about a guy who glued one dollar bills on items in grocery or chain stores, with writing on the bill saying “May this bring you happiness, health, and peace.” He said though it wasn’t much, it might bring that person luck and add to the generosity of people. I did a few times, and I found it fun to sneak around Target stick gluing ones on the back of diapers, soup, and tioletries.

  10. That is an absolutely amazing story.

    MY eyes are brimming with tears as I read this.

    I will definitely be paying it forward this weekend. Thanks for the inspiration!

  11. unabridgedgirl

    I love RAOK, as my friend and I called them. We used to do the same thing, pay for someone’s order behind us at the drive-thru. I should do that, again! 🙂 Thanks for the reminder.

  12. I’ve paid it forward twice in the past month, and not because of my extreme kindness and generosity…mroe because of my impatience.

    Once at Dunkin Donuts when the cashier mistakenly thought I was with the gentleman who had just ordered a coffee. I just told her to keep the coffee on my tab. The guy was yapping on his cell phone and didn’t stop talking to say thank you. but at least he nodded his head in thanks.

    Another time, also at Dunkin Donuts when the same cashier rang up the two guys that were talking to my son and I. Turns out he is the ex-uncle of one of my son’s friends. I just wanted to GTFO of there and let that one slide too.

    Impatience makes me generous.

  13. Love it! It actuall reminds me of this movie called “Pay IT Forward” with Helen Hunt…have you seen it?

    I did an act of kindness yesterday! 🙂
    In the airport, there was this European couple who needed to store some of their luggage in another bag in order to be able to fit their luggage on board, and I supplied them with a paper bag. Saved them $15 from having to check their bag in! >.<

  14. I love it! First chance I get, I am gonna pay it forward. What a great message. Thanks for reminding me about the importance of random acts of kindness. I will let you know.

  15. OK. I read this and blubbered a little. I will do it. I will come back and tell ya before the end of the day Sunday!!!

    • Ok. So I did the drive-through thing at Dunkin Donuts and I secretly left a fiver at an unemployeed friend’s house peaking out from under the couch (so she will think it was hers:) I am very happy now!

    • mama

      Blubbered! I don’t think so! You are so special as is Jane, I am having vicarious fun geting to know all of you- Jane, you Rock! Pay it forward has been part of our life! Thanks for reminding us!

      Especially during the holidays, people need a treat!

      (Jen, Hope it was just coffee at that Dunkin Donuts!)

  16. suzicate

    We never know what affect one small act can have on another. May we each be a blessing to someone else, and not only during the Christmas season.

  17. Pingback: ‘Paying It Forward’ In Costa Mesa! Target Customers Received Random Acts Of Kindness From 6th Graders | Costa Mesa Blog

  18. What a great gift for both you and the other woman. How lovely.

  19. Lovely, lovely!

    I hope she got the job!

  20. You definitely made my day. Very wonderful. Now you have me thinking… 🙂

  21. amberlife

    I’ve been baging on about this on my blog for ages and so many people have started doing it. It’s a brilliant idea – and as I keep saying, it’s the little things that matter. Wee done you and a happy Christmas!

  22. angelcel

    We were discussing something a little similar whilst on holiday. I was saying that even if I wake in a less than stellar mood I try to smile and be pleasant and kind to others because the good karma will pass on to the next person. The hippie in me still aches for a world where we will all be nice to one another! It’s so simple to do. So hard to achieve.

  23. Well, damn Jane, that made me cry! I’m going to buy someone’s coffee this week and then I’ll post back. Great idea!!

  24. At Starbucks just this morning, a women in front of me in drive thru paid for my tall creme brulee frappuccino. I didn’t realize it until I tried giving the cashier a $20 dollar bill and he told me the woman in front of me paid for my drink and she wished me a Merry Christmas. My bill was around $3 to $4.

    Something this simple made my day, and I can’t stop thinking about it even though this happened around 12 hours ago. I was smiling all day today, and I still am now. This is a moment I will never forget. I was going through a lot of hardships in my life, and this random act of kindness has truly healed me and makes me want to PAY IT FORWARD!

    I then Googled about pay it forward and random acts of kindess after this powerful event and found this post!


    • And I’m so glad you did! I expected to hear from others about the random acts of kindness that they did – I never expected to hear from a recipient! I’m so glad someone made your day in that small way. Such a simple act and it has such power!

  25. Tracie Gamino

    Hey. I couldn’t get through to this page the other day. Anyone else had the problem?

  26. What an inspiring story and a great idea!!! I will be following in your footsteps…

  27. Amanda

    I went to pay for my drive thru dunkin order this morning when the cashier told me that the lady in front of me paid for me. He said she does it all the time and handed me an envelope with a card inside that said “Blessings”.

    Dunkin ended up screwing up my order but I didn’t complain. It was so nice! It really made my day.

  28. Ash

    The 1st Annual- Pay It Forward Day for the Holidays- Dec 23, 2010

    Please join us! Ok here’s the simple concept:

    Do a good deed for someone and in return, they don’t return the favor to you, they simply “Pay It Forward” to three others.

    Since this is the season for giving across many different cultures, and nationalities, we thought there would be some good synergy in having a “PIF Day” on Dec 23rd.

    Some examples:

    * Pay for someone’s a cup of coffee
    * Pay for someone’s expiring parking meter
    * Donate your time to a good cause
    * Pay for the person’s toll behind you
    * Buy a stranger’s lunch
    * Simple acts of good will with nothing expected in return.

    No offense if you decide not to participate, but kindly spread the word!

    After signing up be sure and let all your friends on Facebook know!

    To get signed up for our mailing list visit:

    Disclaimer: I am not the origin of this idea and a few other’s have actually already have organized Pay It Forward days. I’m just promoting the same in the same spirit.

    Background Info:

    I’m a big fan of the movie “Pay It Forward” so here’s a clip:

    Here’s a clip from CBS news about the concept as well:

    (Researchers found that when people help out strangers, the recipients are then more generous. As Katie Couric comments, a great big change can begin with one little act of kindness.)

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