Monday, January 7, 2013


Most of us, happily or begrudgingly, according to our mood and the specific message, have forwarded an email or Facebook (FB) post as part of a chain. That's one kind of chain. But there’s a new chain happening - from heart-to-heart -that's growing right now. It's the Pay-it-forward (PIFO) chain. And the links binding this chain give surprising results. When someone starts up a PIFO, they don’t know – exactly – who the recipients will be. That means that you do something or another person does something nice for you without expecting anything at all in return. A PIFO doesn’t have to be same thing that was done before, either. It can be a little or a big gesture but it's one that comes from the heart. And it’s part of the new spirit of loving gifts that express how people feel to be living in 2013. We're now in the Year of the Snake – a time for change. And that change is seen as highly positive for the Earth and for all the people on this planet.

And this idea isn't something dreamed up just recently. It was Ben Franklin who mentioned it in 1784 in a letter he wrote to a friend when he lent him some money. Ben Franklin didn't want to be repaid directly. He asked his friend to pass some money along when he could to someone else who was in need. The same  concept was popularized in a book from the 1950’s, ”Between Planets” by Robert A. Heinlein. Later (2000) there was a Hollywood movie titled “Pay It Forward”. In the movie, a young boy has a school assignment that asks him to come up with an idea that could change the world for the better. He decides to promote the PIFO concept by his own example. In so doing, he creates a long chain of good deeds.

I had only heard about this idea a week ago at my meditation group. It was introduced at our regular  meeting with a short video. (Actually, I’m not 100% sure that’s the very same video but it’s clearly the same idea.) The PIFO in the video involved paying for another person’s tab before leaving a coffee shop. After showing the video, a young woman from our group told us that the PIFO idea would work at a movie show, a toll both, a parking garage, or a restaurant. Summing it up, she described paying forward in the following way. A PIFO relates to doing something kind for someone else in response to having received something good or to a loving feeling that you happen to have. When you pay forward, you’re not “repaying” the person who did something nice for you. Instead, you do something nice for a third person. For example, if someone helps you pick up the groceries that you dropped as you got out of the car, you might “repay” this kind act by taking a homemade casserole to an elderly neighbor who has a hard time getting around.

Accepting Pay -Forward means that you'll do a kindness, too.
Then the young woman held up the PIFO-SMILE card. The business-size card had a big smile face on the front and words saying something like: “SMILE - you just received a Pay-it-forward gift. Be sure to do a nice favor for someone else just as soon as you can.” On the back of the card, there was mention of a website for more information on the pay forward concept. It also said that the very same card should be passed on from beneficiary to beneficiary, thereby forming a loving chain of kindnesses.

Just a couple of days ago, I saw that a FB friend of mine was offering a PIFO. It was sent out as a post to what must be a very large group of friends. The first 5 to comment on her PIFO offer would receive a small gift in 2013. As I remember, it read something like this (my own variation): "Participating in a 2013 Pay-forward chain: 1st five people to comment on this post will receive from me in 2013, a special surprise giftie. The exact date of gift giving is up to me. To be eligible for a gift, then you must be willing to make the same offer to five other people in a FB post and promise to deliver all gifties during 2013."

I liked the idea a lot and quickly commented on her post. When I found out that I was one of the lucky first five, I immediately sent out a PIFO offer to all my FB friends. Five quickly accepted. Now, a couple of days later, I see that the same chain has been continued by others. So, that’s just great. Optimally, we will have gone from one originator to five to 25 to 625, and so on, and all happening in just 48 hours.

OK. You might still be skeptical about the value of the PIFO idea. But, there's reason to believe that acts of love – even little ones – brighten the hearts of givers and receivers. When hearts are bright, they shine on many people around them. Beyond that, there’s reason to believe smiling faces and warm heart feelings extend beyond us to our surroundings. These loving chains benefit our communities. And crazy optimists, like Grandma Susan and many of her friends, believe that the entire natural world and Earth, herself, respond with SMILES when many people are busy doing kind deeds.

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