I recently watched the 2000 movie “Pay It Forward,” starring Helen Hunt and Kevin Spacey. In the film, a young boy is given a school assignment to find some way to change the world. He develops the paying it forward concept in order to set forth a chain reaction of good deeds. Watching this old film caused me to step back and to reexamine my life. I thought, “Am I fully integrating this idea into my daily routine?”

What does it mean to “Pay it forward?”

Paying it forward is a constant state of doing what is good. It involves doing a good deed or random act of kindness without expecting or hoping for anything in return. Someone does something nice for you, and in response, you don’t repay the person who did something nice for you – Instead, you do a nice thing for someone else. This also helps to give one good Karma.

One of the most important aspects about paying it forward is that it should be done with a selfless spirit. The person who continues to amaze me with his ability to pay it forward is my father. He performs several daily random acts of kindness with the end goal of making another person smile. As a result, I’ve noticed that these simple things he says or does for other people make me want to be a better person – picking up trash outside of a restaurant or store, paying a nice compliment to a stranger, and paying a quarter in a meter that’s about to expire. It’s easy to underestimate how small gestures can turn someone’s day around.

How can you “Pay it forward” in your daily life?

It’s easy to get bogged down with life’s demands and miss the little opportunities to pay it forward. As I thought more about it, I came up with a list of ways we can make a difference in someone’s day.

  • Bring in a box of donuts or bagels to work one morning
  • Share a smile or give a compliment
  • Whisper a kind wish or say a prayer for someone
  • Offer someone the space in front of you in line at the grocery store
  • Encourage someone to be the best they can be
  • Give blood
  • Call an old friend just to say, “Hi.  I’ve been thinking about you.”
  • Spend money where it counts
  • Hold the elevator or door for someone
  • Visit a senior citizen or spend time with someone living alone
  • Forgive a loan
  • Help someone, with arms full, to carry the load
  • Going to the store?  Offer to pick something up for a neighbor
  • Pay for someone’s lunch in the car behind you at the fast food restaurant.
  • Let someone in who’s also waiting in traffic
  • Know someone who is a sole caregiver or a single parent?  Offer that person a break by taking a shift
  • Park in the out-lot, leaving spaces nearest the door open for those who may NEED them

Have you been the beneficiary of someone else’s good will?  What little, simple acts of kindness can you do to pay it forward?