At the risk of sounding a little sappy, I believe in “paying it forward.”  Ever since the film, Pay It Forward, came out, the phrase has been fairly commonplace but just in case you haven’t read the book, seen the film or understand the basic concept, it involves the process of doing something good for someone in response to a good deed done on your behalf or a gift you received.  When you pay it forward, you don’t repay the person who did something nice for you. Instead, you do something nice for someone else.  And the timing to do something along these lines couldn’t be more right, especially during the aftermath of the financial meltdown.

Last night I met up with friends and asked them about their Thanksgiving plans and hearing about how they’re looking forward to spend time with friends and family, and giving thanks over the gobble gobble.  It wasn’t until afterward that I felt a pang of guilt, as I remembered the City Harvest donation package, yet to be completed and mailed out, was still amongst my piles of paperwork on my desk.  I know it might seem contrived to think about those less fortunate during the holidays but I admit to being particularly aware and sensitive of the subject matter during Thanksgiving and the winter holidays, of which, that donation package won’t go ignored for much longer.

Although there are plenty of great charities to give to throughout the year (not just during the holidays), there’s something more to paying it forward that could involve transactions beyond just cash and giving to charities.  Although cash is one form of currency that can be transacted, time, energy, in-kind and social currencies can play an equal role, if not, greater.  For the potential beneficiaries of such goodwill, there are even people we’ve known for years that may be slightly less fortunate and may need a helping hand.  In context to our personal and professional lives, there may be a select few we call to for help or us being regarded as the “go to” person for certain situations.  In addition to those directly connected to me, I’ve been consistently looking to develop opportunities to pay it forward to beneficiaries even up to an additional degree of separation from those circles.

While I agree that we can’t care for others without ensuring our needs are met first, I would also counter that it’s during these tough financial times that we should be thinking about those who have less than we do.  I pay particular attention to offering insights and making introductions to connections that can could benefit others more than it would for me just to retain such possession but don’t do so unless I feel confident they can bring the new found knowledge or introduction to fruition.  Sure, if they have the will but still need a little more guidance along the way, I’m more than willing to give them more pointers until they can bring their goals, dreams or ideas to life.  Yes, this may be a little more involved than just giving financial support to a charitable organization but there are multiple opportunities to make a difference in the lives of those directly around us and who wouldn’t want to celebrate that person’s triumph when it’s a family member, friend or a friend-of-a-friend?

In the context to how these cycles of paying it forward may play out, it has the potential to take on viral growth of creating a world filled with unsung heroes.  Assuming you have three people you’ve targeted to pay it forward to, you’ve set realistic but meaningful goals to ensure 100% success for each beneficiary, and every subsequent beneficiary takes on the same approach for their payments for 10 cycles, we would end up having a total of 265,719 people, whose lives have been touched by the invisible hand of paying it forward.

“Life is mostly froth and bubble,
Two things stand like stone,
Kindness in another’s trouble,
Courage in your own.”

– Adam Lindsay Gordon

“A fellow who does things that count, doesn’t usually stop to count them.”

– Variation of a saying by Albert Einstein