Friday, November 5, 2010

Pay it Forward creates Ripples

A couple in Nova Scotia won $11.2 million and gave most of it away. The pair in their mid 70's said the internal reward for assisting other people is far better than using the money themselves.

"We have a great feeling- everybody appreciates is so much. Everything is in bad shape these days, so you like to help all these people." The wife, who is struggling with cancer, said, " Money can't buy you health and happiness."

The idea of paying it forward is echoed in several sources.

Ralph Waldo Emerson said in 1841, "In the order of nature we cannot render benefits to those from whom we receive them, or only seldom. But the benefit we receive must be rendered again, line for line, deed for deed, cent for cent, to somebody."

A spokesperson for Alcoholics Anonymous said in 1941, "You can't pay anyone back for what has happened to you, so you try to find someone you can pay forward."

In Robert A. Heinlein's novel Between the Planets (1951) there is the occasion when 'the banker reached into the folds of his gown, pulled out a single credit note. "But eat first — a full belly steadies the judgment. Do me the honor of accepting this as our welcome to the newcomer." His pride said no; his stomach said YES! Don took it and said, "Uh, thanks! That's awfully kind of you. I'll pay it back, first chance." "Instead, pay it forward to some other brother who needs it."'

A prominent professor met a promising math student on the verge of expulsion for inability to pay his tuition. He paid the young man's tuition in full. Years later, the man offered to return the entire amount, but the professor insisted that the man rather find another student in his situation, and give the tuition to him.

In Catherine Ryan Hyde's book (2000) and movie Pay it Forward it is described as an obligation to do three good deeds for others in repayment of a good deed that one receives. In this way, the need to help one another can spread exponentially through society and create a social movement.

From my own experience a camper at Olympic National Park in Washington was leaving his beautiful oceanfront site when he said that this site was available. Do you want to register for it? He also gave us a pile of firewood and wished us a good day. How did his actions affect our relationship to future campers we met?