How Do You Pay It Forward?

“Paying it forward” is one of those feel good buzz phrases, which has been hijacked and commercialised by some large corporations — Starbucks for one with their backing of the “suspended coffee scheme.” The same has happened with the whole industry that used to be individual random acts of kindness, which spawned a book and several reality television shows.

Do not let this taint your view of the people who “pay it forward” every day in small and large ways.

In retrospect, I was brought up, paying it forward. Each advent we would clear out clothes that were too small and toys we had grown out of, which would then be washed and pressed or cleaned in the case of toys and then gifted to local children’s homes so the less fortunate than ourselves would at least have something for Christmas.

This was way before Bob Geldof and crew tried to solve the hunger problems in Africa with “Do they know it’s Christmas.” We also benefitted from hand me downs from older relatives; we would eagerly await our twice-yearly parcels of goodies from other families — usually because their parents were a little more modern than ours and we might get something that was not too out of fashion. There was no shame in second hand clothes in those days and, contrary to most assumptions, we were not from a poor household, just a careful one that did not waste anything.

Fast forward to today — or recent years: my daughter spent six years at University steadfastly refusing to use a credit card — much to her own credit. She was assisted once or twice a month by a good friend of mine, now a Consultant, who would take her on a supermarket run, followed by dinner in return for a lift in my daughter’s boyfriend’s car and help up the stairs with the shopping at his digs at the hospital. I was very grateful that she had this local lifeline and I was always very grateful for all he did for her and thanked him at every opportunity.

His reply was that he was paying forward and went on to explain that when he was a hard up medical student he had an older friend who would do the same for him. When he was thanked his reply was that — “I am only paying it forward, like I know you will in time. I know how difficult it can be to survive as a student, I was helped when I was a student, I am now paying forward to you — and I know you in turn will pay forward when you are able. “

I know my daughter was not the only recipient of his kindness.

Here in Portugal, each café — instead of the “suspended coffee” scheme — has an “adopt a vulnerable person scheme.” If you look carefully, you will see at the end of each meal sitting a couple of people arriving who get bread, a bowl of whatever surplus is available and a coffee. The never ask for the menu, they are served immediately and if they are very lucky they get a shot of the local liquor to wash it all down.

A lot of my paying forward tends to be in the family — or extended family. When I left England, all of my white goods — fridges, freezers, washing machines, etc — all went to good homes. Some of my more useable, but unwanted, furniture went to Freecycle and a lot of books and videos and clothes went to car boot sales for a specific Charity.

I would love to hear how others pay forward — perhaps in ways I have not thought of — so please let me know how you pay forward.