The term “Pay it Forward” was popularized by  Adam Grant, Wharton Professor of Management, in his book Give and Take. He argued that this simple practice was his favorite idea.

What the heck is ‘Pay it forward?’

In very simple terms, it means to help people without expecting anything in return. The act of support can be in any form, time, connections, expertise, stopping to pat someone in the back, leaving a generous tip, having a few kind words with a stranger or anything that does not look like a transaction. Here you part away something of yours graciously without worrying about the famous question of ‘What is in it for me’?

A surprising case

I have started this habit of going for a 10K run every fortnight.

Before going there, I have a tea and bun in a small tea shop, a kilometer away from my house.

One day, I had the tea with my bun, when one guy said hi and paid for me and said bye and went away.

I got the shock of my life. I was wondering who this stranger is, who pays for me, does not even wait for my acknowledgment and walks away!

Needless to say, I was thrilled.

My frequency of free hoarding has increased in the last 18 months, but to be paid by a stranger was the most beautiful thing I have experienced in recent times.

An even more surprising find

After a couple of days of pattern matching, I found the guy next to the temple I visit on Sundays. He is a push cart vendor from whom I buy stuff sporadically.

All pushcart vendors in my surrounding know me, as I do not haggle with them. I just pay the price they ask for, do not check the quality or anything, just go by what they say, and I get the stuff. I have a friendly banter with them inquiring with them about general stuff in life.

I know most times they think me as a scapegoat, overprice me and sneak in some foul stuff, but I do not stop going to them. After a few visits, they feel bad about my stupidity and restore balance by offering best of their stuff at a good price. If I do not go for some days, they enquire about me, when I visit them next.

What baffles me?

Now the question I ask myself is ‘Why did that push cart person pay for me”?

Did he pay out of guilt?

Did he pay out of anticipation?

Did he pay out of sheer spontaneity?

A hard-hitting lesson

Though the why still baffles me, I am positive that he did out of pure impulse and he possibly understands the science behind ‘Paying it forward’ naturally.

I have not had the need to buy anything from him after that incident, but he will remain etched in my memory for imparting a lesson in spontaneity.

I reflect, and I have to accept that my true “Pay it forward’ are between far and few.

A relevant forward

I end with a whatsapp forward that I received when I was pondering about this subject and I am of the view it finds a place in this discussion.

“In 1892 at _Stanford University_ , an 18-year-old student was struggling to pay his fees. He was an orphan, and not knowing where to turn for money, he came up with a bright idea. He and a friend decided to host a musical concert on campus to raise money for their education.


They reached out to the great pianist *Ignacy J. Paderewski*. His manager demanded a guaranteed fee of $2000 for the piano recital. A deal was struck and the boys began to work to make the concert a success.

The big day arrived. But unfortunately, they had not managed to sell enough tickets. The total collection was only $1600. Disappointed, they went to *Paderewski* and explained their plight. They gave him the entire $1600, plus a cheque for the balance $400. They promised to honour the cheque at the soonest possible.


“No,” said *Paderewski*. “This is not acceptable.” He tore up the cheque, returned the $1600 and told the two boys: “Here’s the $1600. Please deduct whatever expenses you have incurred. Keep the money you need for your fees. And just give me whatever is left”. The boys were surprised, and thanked him profusely.

It was a small act of kindness. But it clearly marked out *Paderewski* as a great human being.

Why should he help two people he did not even know? We all come across situations like these in our lives. And most of us only think “If I help them, what would happen to me?” The truly great people think, “If I don’t help them, what will happen to them?” They don’t do it expecting something in return. They do it because they feel it’s the right thing to do.


*Paderewski* later went on to become the *Prime Minister of Poland*. He was a great leader, but unfortunately when the *World War* began, *Poland* was ravaged. There were more than _1.5 million people starving in his country, and no money to feed them_ . *Paderewski* did not know where to turn for help. He reached out to the *US Food and Relief Administration* for help.

He heard there was a man called *Herbert Hoover* — who later went on to become the *US President*. *Hoover* agreed to help and quickly shipped tons of food grains to feed the starving *Polish* people.

_A calamity was averted_. *Paderewski* was relieved. 


He decided to go across to meet *Hoover* and personally thank him. When *Paderewski* began to thank *Hoover* for his _noble gesture_ *Hoover* quickly interjected and said, ” *You shouldn’t be thanking me Mr. Prime Minister. You may not remember this, but several years ago, you helped two young students go through college. I was one of them* .”


_The world is a wonderful place. What goes around comes around. Please help others to the best of your ability. In the long run you may be helping yourself. God never forgets anyone who sows a good seed in other people, never_ .  


*Nothing in nature lives for itself. Rivers don’t drink their own water. Trees don’t eat their own fruit. Sun doesn’t give heat for itself. Flowers don’t spread fragrance for themselves. Living for others is the rule of nature. And therein lies the secret of living.”


What is your view about “Paying it forward”?

Do you agree?


Enjoy Maadi(Have Fun)