14 – Thursday 14 January 2010 : paying it forward

In musings, wise words on January 14, 2010 by Gabor Tagged: ,

I did someone a favour yesterday. This person was a total stranger. My act of kindness cost me very little, but was quite important to him.

We got to talking about this kind of thing. I had always thought of it in terms of “what goes around, comes around”. I suppose I mean that if I do someone a favour then sooner or later someone else, and probably not the same person, will do something that helps me or a member of my family. Tony – for let us give this stranger a name – said that the Americans would call this “paying it forward”. I got to thinking about this, and quite liked the concept.

Indeed, it should probably come as no surprise that there is a website for paying it forward and a fairly well defined philosophy to it. Reading more, it seems that there is almost a more formal, almost legal, approach. If I lend you some money, I expect you to pay it back. However, the idea of paying it forward (rather than back) appears to go back to Benjamin Franklin in 1784. As I understand it, when asked by Benjamin Webb for a loan, the future American president did not give the money on terms that it was to be repaid to him, but said this:

“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.”

I  think this is a wonderful idea.  not only shall I try to do an act of kindness whenever I can, but when I do so I shall try to enjoin the beneficiary to pay it forward.

Link: Pay It Forward Foundation


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