Don’t be that selfish idiot – pay it forward
At a Starbucks in Seattle, for an entire day customers had their vente half-double-decaffeinated half-cafés, with just a whisper of nonfat goat whip, paid for by the customer preceding themselves, and in turn, paid for the order of the customer immediately after them. This continued on for an entire day. Nobody died. No coercion. In Florida, the same thing happened, again at a Starbucks, and again at a different city in Washington – this continued going for some time – days, I believe – until some moron who ordered an iced tea put the kibosh on it, but who cares? The point is, it worked. It was a simple thing people could readily and easily do for one another that felt good. A few elements added to its success; it was a continual event and it was self-reinforcing in addition. It was a little social experiment about generalized reciprocity. “It” was an example of how others “paid it forward”. The concept of “paying it forward” is not a new one, but is inevitably jogged in the gray matter as that movie with Kevin Spacey, Helen Hunt, and the kid actor who saw dead people in another movie. The book that the movie was adapted from, as most decent movies are, is another source named as the creation of paying it forward. It was actually mentioned verbatim, as a term, in a 1951 book, Between Planets, by Robert Heinlen. However, the first time it was noted as an actual self-perpetuating concept was by Benjamin Franklin. He said, “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 repay 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.” What made the participants feel even better, I imagine, was that it was something so easy and enjoyable to do, and it was an unexpectedly welcome little surprise. Beyond that, you knew you had done something for someone else that was actually tangible. I found this entire enterprise and concept so appealing, I would like to try it here. Don’t get me wrong, initially this made me think of those chain e-mails that are always the same; send this slice of idiocy off to thirty of your friends, within ten minutes, and something really nice will happen to you. Sometimes they are even religious themed and decorated with angels and the rest of the Seraphim, but the results are always the same if you don’t send it – you need to watch out for falling houses that particular day because you suck for betraying the junk e-mail forwarding gods. However, I’m certain that with a valley full of people who work exceedingly hard, but are also quite generous with their time, ideas, money, and aspirations – it shouldn’t be too difficult to bring into inception. We still live in a community – and from what I’ve seen, people are still not shy from being kind to one another. So then, let’s pay it forward. It has been defined as doing a good deed for three persons, preferably something they could not have done on their own, and each person in turn, helps three other people in their own way, thereby the need, desire, and act to help and do good things for one another can grow exponentially with one simple goal every single person involved with can agree with and take pride in being a part of: helping one another. A social movement with the singular goal of making things better for each person involved in some small way. Not bad, I say. Of course, there are people who couldn’t care less about this sort of thing, and nothing horrific will happen to you if you don’t participate – but I would avoid licking hammerhead sharks for a while, just to be safe.In an effort to kick this off, I will personally begin twenty of these “events,” I suppose you could call them. In addition, I have set up a blog with ideas, a file to download to clue people in to the concept as you attempt to pay it forward to them. Info can be found at http://asideofblather.blogspot.com or by contacting Christopher Mullally at 970.384.9131 or email@example.com. Chris works in the Post Independent advertising department by day.
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