Pay It Forward

“You don’t pay love back, you pay it forward.”

--Lily Hardy Hammond


Note: The following has been excerpted
and paraphrased from the Wikipedia entry.


The expression “pay it forward” is used these days to describe the concept of asking that a good turn be repaid by having it done to others instead.  Payments can be monetary or by good deeds.  When Carl offers free workshops,the participants are invited to consider and act upon this social philosophy and spiritual practice. The general rules for this are as follows:

1)  Please try to “pay it forward” within 90 days.  If this is not possible then within a year from the date of this workshop.

2) You may give money or services to one or more persons or charities, but preferably not to a family member or close friend.  This can be anonymous, but doesn’t need to be.

3) At the lunch break, please take a piece of paper and write down at least one or two ideas for your own “pay it forward” transactions.  

This concept is not new.  It was described by Benjamin Franklin in a letter to Benjamin Webb dated April 22nd, 1784: “I do not pretend to give such a sum; I only lend it to you.  When you… meet with another honest Man in similar Distress, you must pay me by lending this Sum to him; enjoining him to discharge the Debt by a like operation, when he shall be able, and shall meet with another opportunity.  I hope it may thus go thro’ many hands, before it meets with a Knave that will stop its progress.  This is a trick of mine for doing a deal of good with a little money.”

Later, Emerson wrote in his essay “Compensation”: “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.”

In 1944, a spokesperson for Alcoholics Anonymous said in the Christian Science Monitor: “You can’t pay anyone back for what has happened to you, so you try to find someone you can pay forward.”

In 1951, the term was popularized by Robert A. Heinlein in his book Between Planets.  Moreover, he preached and practiced this principle in his own life, as does the Heinlein Society, a humanitarian organization later founded in his name. In 2000, Catherine Ryan Hyde’s novel Pay It Forward was published and adapted into a Warner Brothers film with the same title. 

This led to the creation of the Pay It Forward Foundation, which focuses on bringing the idea to school age children, parents and educators.

Finally, many people are finding creative ways in daily life to practice this form of generosity and service.  For example, people have been known to pay bridge tolls for drivers behind them. 

Others pay the bill for diners in a restaurant.  Some pay for the education of others’ children, asking only that when the children grow up and begin working, they try to do something similar for the next generation.  The possibilities are endless, and Carl encourages all his friends, colleagues and students to engage in such “experiments of the Heart.”