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Pay it Forward: 20 Positive Ways to Create a Chain of Goodwill

pay it forward

Instead of paying someone back, you pay it forward to create a chain of goodwill. Incremental acts of kindness really can change lives!

The phrase pay it forward means you should do something nice for a stranger or someone you know personally, that they totally aren’t expecting. When they feel good, they will likely do something nice for someone else. And, by the time it is done, your kindness can create world peace.

Okay, if you pay it forward, you probably won’t change the Mideast Crisis or solve world hunger, but what it will do is make someone happier, if even for a moment. And, if nothing else, change one person’s life for the better, which is much better than just leaving the world to itself, no?

Paying it forward is a notion that is the opposite of paying someone back. It means that when someone does something nice for you, instead of paying them back, you pay it forward to someone else and so on….

20 ways to pay it forward today

If you are looking for small incremental changes that you can do on a daily basis to pay it forward and make small, yet, significant, changes in the world around you, try these pay it forward things.

#1 Take and return someone’s shopping cart for them. I know, totally stupid and we ALL hate to do it. But, you will be paying it forward for two people. First, the poor guy that gets paid to collect the carts and second, that person that has three kids in a car and is trying to get everyone buckled in. You have no idea how much you will make his or her day.

#2 Leave a Starbucks gift card in the ATM with a little note saying “have a good day.” Nothing says “awesomeness” like a free cappuccino. Chances are good that the person you leave it for will leave a nice tip for the barista… see how it works! [Read: 15 tips to be nice and loved by all instantly]

#3 Stop to let someone take a turn in the height of traffic. Tricky, you might piss off the person behind you, but a little wave to go ahead can relieve someone’s stress. Who knows, maybe they are way late for something important and you just saved their job… or, even more severe, life.

#4 If someone has only a couple of items, let them in front of you in the grocery line. Right? Who doesn’t hate bouncing from one crowded line to the next at the grocery store juggling two gallons of milk and a tub of butter? If you have a buggy full, then let them pass before you. It might cost you like two minutes, but it will save them tons of time.

#5 If you see someone struggling with a heavy box, offer to help them. The worst feeling is standing in public and struggling with an oversized box or something super heavy. If you ever want to feel all out on your own, try handling something with too much weight and awkwardly shaped while everyone around you passes by.

Let someone know they have someone there who has their back and they’ll get someone else’s next time, I guarantee it. [Read: 11 simple ways to inspire people around you]

#6 Tell a complete stranger that you like their outfit. Paying it forward doesn’t always have to come in the form of money or a favor. Sometimes just telling someone they look nice is a good enough thing for humanity.

Putting that person in a good mood, they are more likely to share the wealth and brighten someone else’s day like a contagion.

#7 Buy a drink for someone and put it on your tab *someone you don’t want to have sex with*. When you are at the bar, and you see someone there by themselves staring at the television screen, guy or girl, buy them a drink and put it on your tab when you are closing it out.

The key is to make sure that you are leaving so that it doesn’t come across as you hitting on them. That way, they know you were just buying them a friendly drink.

#8 Clean up your own table by stacking things at the restaurant. Sure, they get paid to clean up the table, but stacking your things nicely so they can clean it in one fell swoop is an excellent way to make someone feel good.

It shows them that they aren’t just a slave to society and will make them know they are respected, and that people care, and aren’t always inconsiderate. [Read: How to be happy again – 20 ways to draw happiness from within]

#9 Leave hand me downs on someone’s porch who you know can use them instead of reselling them or taking them to the thrift store. If you drive by a house with little kids running around, and you just have a feeling that they could use some hand me downs, drop them on their stoop later in the evening unnoticed.

In order to pay it forward, the key is to make someone feel good, not indebted or pitied. It is nice to get a surprise you need without the humiliation of thinking someone is pitying you or thinks you need their help.

#10 If you have the lawnmower out, cut your neighbor’s lawn too. It will take you, like, ten minutes but will make a huge impact on their weekend when they come out, and something is off their “to-do” list. You already have it fired up, so go the extra mile. [Read: How to make someone happy and bring a smile on their face]

#11 Randomly leave flowers at someone’s door. What is better than walking outside to see some cheery flowers for no reason at all. Unlike getting flowers for an anniversary, because someone died, or as an apology, flowers from a stranger for no reason at all, just make you feel good.

#12 Help someone who needs to load the groceries in their car. If you see an elderly person trying to load groceries into their car, be the good samaritan who helps them. What is easy for young people, gets harder as you get older. It will take you a second but you’ll save them a whole lot of energy… and mean a whole lot.

#13 If you can’t make a concert, then give your tickets away to someone for free. Instead of sticking your tickets on Craigslist or trying to sell them on Ebay, give your tickets to someone you know needs a night out and will really enjoy them.

#14 Leave a dollar taped to the vending machine. Bonuses are awesome. A dollar can get them some cookies, or maybe bump them up from a drink to a drink and chips. Not much, it is the little things that help the most. [Read: How to become a better person – 9 golden rules to evolve every day]

#15 Send a thank you card to someone, saying “thanks for being so nice.” There is nothing that says pay it forward more than telling someone “thank you” and that you appreciate them. Thank you cards are something that not many people send any more, but they go a long way to bettering people’s lives.

#16 Email an employee and tell them they’ve been doing an outstanding job. Feeling appreciated and well accomplished are the best feelings in the world. In the workplace, it is much more likely that you are going to get some bitching for things you do wrong than things you do right. Change that habit and make someone’s day.

#17 Tell someone when they have a spot on the back of their pants, they have toilet paper stuck to their shoe, or any other embarrassing thing you would hope someone would tell you. Don’t walk past someone who has their skirt stuck in their pantyhose or toilet paper on their shoe because you don’t want to embarrass them.

Do something nice by stopping their embarrassment, and they will do it for someone else. In order to pay it forward, sometimes you need to be brave. [Read: 10 simple ways to become a more socially conscious person]

#18 Bring someone’s recycling bins back up to their house for them. I hate two things, bringing the trash cans down to the street and returning them. If you return after work and notice that your neighbor has left the cans down by the street, help them by bringing them back up to the house. It is a small, but very significant gesture to make someone happy. [Read: 20 lifestyle changes to make in your 20s for a better life]

#19 Bring dinner to someone who has seemed stressed lately. Drop dinner off for someone who you know has been stressed lately. Don’t worry if they already have plans, if they do, just deliver something they can keep in the freezer for a later date.

Dinner is always a nice way to pay it forward and to help someone take one thing off their hectic plate.  [Read: How to cheer yourself up and find your inner happiness]

#20 Smile and say “hi” to a stranger. Something as small as a smile and a “hi” can be enough to lighten someone’s entire day. Big things come in small packages, and a smile is a small package that can change the world one person at a time.

Paying it forward is a way to brighten someone’s day so that they want to do the same for someone else. It is a belief that if we all could do one small act of kindness, it would be enough to change the world. I might be an optimist, but I believe in it.

[Read: 17 ways to be a citizen of the world while living at home]

I know that when someone does something nice to brighten my day, it changes the way that I behave and makes me want to go the extra mile to help someone else. If we all decided to pay it forward and went the extra mile, imagine what a wonderful place world would be.

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Julie Keating
Julie Keating

A writer isn’t born, but created out of experiences. No lack of subject matter, my life reads more like fiction than anything that could have been imagined...

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