JKinslow's blog

Posts Tagged ‘non-profits

With recent talk of a flu pandemic preparing to invade the Northern Hemisphere in just a few weeks, wouldn’t you like to spread something good virally? Then, a dose of pay it forward may be just what you need.

Novelist Lily Hardy Hammond wrote, “You don’t pay love back; you pay it forward.”

The pay it forward concept involves repaying kindness by performing random acts of kindness for others. Sociologists refer to it as “generalized reciprocity.” 

Whatever the phrase actually means, it’s likely most of us picture it as a little kid with a big idea in the film with the same name. That was the extent of my knowledge, until last week.

I waited patiently in the drive-thru at our local Starbucks for my usual non-fat Caffè Mocha. I scarcely noticed a woman in the car in front of me as she paid for her coffee and drove off.

380_Image_PA_starbucks_drive_thruI moved up to the window to pick up my coffee, when the barista said, “Never mind paying, your coffee was paid for by ‘Anne,’ the woman who was in front of you.” I gave her a surprised look and she continued, “Yeah, last week we had 10 cars in a row that did the same thing, one after another.” Still a bit stunned, I looked into the rear view mirror and noticed there was no one behind me. She looked at me and said, “Just buy one for someone next time.”

I was happy, yet puzzled that someone I could NEVER thank would do such a nice thing for me. It soon turned to curiousity about how this whole thing started.

When I got home, I plugged some keywords into Google and found that Starbucks has been virally spreading this concept on and off since about 2005. A nice gesture apparently started from an angry one. An impatient Starbucks customer began honking and yelling at the driver in front of him. This driver, a tai chi master, responded with a bit of Zen, and bought the angry man’s coffee. This set off a chain reaction of drivers buying coffee for the person in the line behind them and so on. (Although, many think that Starbucks uses it as an undercover PR campaign.)

The concept continues to spread through social media channels and is used by credit unions, non-profits, and even eBay and Flickr.

Whatever its reason for promotion, if social communications can bring an idea to life that sparks real people to do real nice things for each other, should we care?

No matter how you do it, by all means, do it. If you don’t drink coffee, or frequent Starbucks, here are five other ways you can pay it forward.

  1. Give life to others at the next Red Cross blood drive
  2. Take a stressed-out coworker to lunch (and listen)
  3. Donate your time or funds to help a local animal rescue shelter http://www.romeothecat.com/
  4. Become a Big Brother or Big Sister http://bit.ly/5MkE
  5. Give to a true pay it forward organization http://www.heifer.org/

  6. Bookmark and Share


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