Paying it Forward with Acts of Kindness

By Samantha McKenzie

It was nothing for my mom to send me down the street to ask my aunt for a cup of sugar or a stick of butter when she suddenly realized she had run out. It was actually common practice for us to exchange portions of food with our next door neighbor until one of us made it out to the market again or until the next paycheck arrived.


I witnessed neighbors generously swapping household items, trading tools and borrowing ladders to get their chores completed. This was the generation that carpooled out of necessity because not everyone owned a vehicle. The sisters at the church would make meals for its members who were sick and shut in.

Acts of kindness were staples in our lives and there was nothing random about any of it. We practiced community living and it created an invisible bond that weaved its way through our collective souls. It somehow made us all stronger.


Today, we are helping each other on a broader scale. We are witnessing more people paying if forward. I recently saw a news clip of a gentleman who paid the grocery bill for the customer who stood in line behind him. Go Fund Me accounts are popping up each day to help support people who are suffering from serious illnesses or those who may have experienced a recent tragedy. We are pooling our resources and expanding our reach. But there’s still more to do.

I read about a man who left his Wall Street job to open a pizza shop in Philadelphia. Everything was pretty normal until a thoughtful customer decided to pre-pay for a slice of pizza and instructed the owner to give it to the next homeless person that came in for a bite. The idea caught on and grew into what they now call the Pay it Forward program. Since then, customers randomly buy a slice and pay it forward for those in need. The workers place sticky notes on the wall that can be redeemed for a free slice of pizza.


This is community. As the holiday season approaches, we should all practice at least one act of kindness or paying it forward. It doesn’t have to be a large sum of money. When you are standing in line at any store, consider buying the person behind you their next ice cream cone or their next tank of gas. Then, invite them to pay it forward for someone else. It doesn’t even have to be money. You can pay it forward with acts of kindness. Think of how quickly this would spread.

Brazilian author Paulo Coelho calls it the Favor Bank. Make a deposit in the Favor Bank and when it’s your turn, you can make a withdrawal.

Pay it forward.

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