I never read the book Pay It Forward, but I saw the movie starring Kevin Spacey, Haley Joel Osment and Helen Hunt.  WOW!  Loved the movie and the idea right up until the end.  If you haven’t seen it, I don’t want to ruin it for you because it is a must see movie.  The idea is to do something kind for a stranger and ask them to pass it on to three other people and so on.

My kids always make fun of me because I am always saying “pay it forward.”  I use this movie as inspiration in showing my kids how important it is to be kind to others.  We are no Haley Joel Osment, but I like to think it may be the beginning of something bigger.  Since these acts are done with no expectation of return, and we don’t have a camera crew following everyone, it is hard to really know the impact it can make.  I do know that it feels good to help someone and it is fun to imagine the impact it may have had on that person’s life.

Though, many people don’t recognize their capacity to help. They fear that they don’t have enough to give, or that they’re not important enough to change anyone’s life.

What can I do, I am not a hero?  You hear stories all the time on the news of everyday people transforming into heroes just by following their hearts under moments of duress.  You don’t have to wait for someone to “turn off the lights” for you to shine – you can achieve greatness through giving to others, through just one random act of kindness at a time.  You don’t have to save Africa, jump in front of bullets, or build homes in Haiti to put your mark on the world.  

I don’t have extra money to spend how can I help?  Take care of yourself first.  If you have excess than share with those in need, but don’t give away your last dollar.  Many acts of kindness can be done with no money at all.  Without helping with money try helping with kindness, labor and friendship….say Thank You, hold a door, help someone with their groceries, etc.

Can I start with someone I know?  It can feel risky to help strangers, some people would feel more comfortable only helping people that they know.  Don’t let this stop you for the process, random acts of kindness can help anyone.  Help co-workers, neighbors or extended family members that may not ask for help or would not expect it.  If you do decide to help strangers, use your judgement and remain anonymous.


  1. Volunteer for a non-profit organization
  2. Pay the bridge toll for the car behind you
  3. Pay for someones meal at a restaurant
  4. Help an elderly or disabled neighbor
  5. Leave a friendly and anonymous note or sweet treat on a co-workers desk
  6. In the winter clear your snow and your neighbors
  7. If you have something nice to say, say it
  8. At a drive-thru, pay for the order of the car behind you
  9. Anonymously send flowers to a family member or friend
  10. Leave a large tip on a small bill
  11. On a busy subway or bus, stand, so that someone else can sit
  12. Make a donation to the needy
  13. Smile at a stranger. One smile can go a long way to someone having a terrible day
  14. Forgive some who might have wronged you in the past. Go out of your way to do them a favor
  15. Pay someones utility bills
  16. Give someone your car
  17. If you provide services for living, give your services pro bono
  18. Pay someone’s mortgage for a month — or a year for that matter
  19. Help a student with their tuition
  20. Help with an inner city project
  21. Be a mentor
  22. Walk someone’s dog
  23. Babysit for free
  24. Have a fund raiser at your school
  25. Clean someone’s house
  26. Drive people around
  27. Rake someone’s leaves
  28. Play music for the elderly
  29. Give a lottery ticket to a stranger
  30. Treat a police officer to a cup of coffee
  31. Bring some goodies to the fire station
  32. Invite the less fortunate for Thanksgiving dinner
  33. Donate food, clothing, and money to the needy
  34. Buy the movie tickets for the person behind you
  35. Mow someone’s lawn
  36. Cook a nice meal for a friend
  37. Help a homeless person find a home
  38. Put a quarter in a meter, any meter, that’s about to expire
  39. Leave a copy of a really great book you’ve read in a cafe for someone else to enjoy
  40. Be nice to the customer service people who are trying to help you with your technological difficulties
  41. Thank the cooks, wait staff and bussboys personally
  42. Say something nice or funny or goofy to the toll booth attendant 
  43. Forgive a driver directing road rage at you
  44. Buy or pack a meal for a homeless person (or give him/her your to-go box from a restaurant)
  45. Give a warm coat to a homeless person
  46. Compliment a stranger
  47. Send a box of donuts or bagels or muffins to a construction site
  48. When you leave a foreign country, give your left over currency to someone who resides in that country
  49. At an airport, offer to pull the bags belonging to a woman or a mother with child out of the conveyor belt
  50. Praise generously
  51. Give local tips (re: restaurants, sights, etc.) to a tourist
  52. Let someone cut in front of you at the grocery store
  53. Encourage someone to pursue their dream
  54. Show support to an artist or writer or musician
  55. Tip a cab driver generously
  56. Teach a child something you wish you knew at that age
  57. Smile at someone who’s sad
  58. Visit a hospice and spend some time with a terminally ill patient
  59. Volunteer at a battered women’s shelter
  60. Spend some time with a senior citizen living alone
  61. Give someone the benefit of the doubt
  62. Offer the FedEx, UPS or DHL delivery person something to drink especially on a warm day
  63. Help a pregnant lady
  64. Sit and talk with a homeless person and learn their story
  65. Loan something to someone and forget about it
  66. Contribute to a friend’s child’s education fund
  67. Give blood
  68. Donate to or volunteer for a charitable organization
  69. Replace an angry or bitter thought toward someone with a loving thought (or at least try)
  70. Leave a gift for the mailman, garbage man, etc.

Spread the word:  If the person thanks you and wants to “repay” you, let them know that what you’d really like is for them to “pay it forward.” The idea is to consciously increase the goodness of the world.

Pay attention:  Practicing the “pay it forward” principle will make you alert to unexpected kindness from strangers toward you.  Be very thankful the next time someone holds the door for you or gives a friendly smile.  Make sure to pass it on.

Making a difference:  Just think about the difference it would make if everyone did at least one of these things every day. Most of them don’t cost any money and have the ability to brighten the day of one or more individuals.  Can we make a difference?  It’s worth a shot right?

Change one person’s day for the better, and maybe you can change the world.



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