Pay it Backward

Selfishness can cause those who pay it forward to pay it backward. We’re all too familiar with the phrase “Pay It Forward.” Wikipedia defines it as “an expression for describing the beneficiary of a good deed repaying it to others instead of to the original benefactor.”

Pay it Backward

I’ve been blessed by other’s people good deeds and I’ve been doing my best to pay it forward as well. Unfortunately, there are moments in life when you come across a “non-player” and my plan to pay it forward turns into a scenario of pay it backward. Why is it that some people can’t see a kind gesture for what it is, and instead walk away ungrateful or annoyed? Honestly, it encourages the “Pay It Forward” folks to think twice about doing a good deed. And it my encourage them to pay it backward.


With my website ( I’m contributing to the community from behind the scenes. So, if we were to use the pay it forward phrase loosely, this could count. However, I’ve been making attempts to just do kind things for others. This may not be what people typically think of when they hear “Pay It Forward,” but I’m not a coffee drinker so you won’t find me buying your coffee while standing in line at a Starbucks. Instead, I try to find situations when I could do something nice for others. Again, quite possibly a casual use of the phrase, but an attempt at being a good neighbor and citizen none-the-less. For example, I worked at a Farmers Market recently and I brought my kids with me. We were there as the booths were setting up their things. We saw a couple of booths that had something roll of the front of their table. We simply picked it up for them so they wouldn’t have to walk around the tables and get it. Nobody asked us to do it, but we thought it would be a kind gesture. They were grateful.

But recently, I performed similar random acts of kindness and they were not so well-received.

I was at the grocery store one morning and quickly wheeling my full cart to the car to load up the groceries and head home. As always, I was in a big rush to get home and start my work day, but I noticed a lady in her vehicle pulling into a parking space that was littered with single serving wine bottles. I stopped my cart and waved to her to stop as I bent down and picked up the bottles so she would not run over them. Now, I don’t do things because I expect a “Thank you” in return, but after she parked her car, this woman literally got out of her car and walked around the other side to completely avoid me. What did I do wrong? Seriously, I took time out during my big rush to clean up some filthy wine bottles that some shopper (or employee) just couldn’t wait to get home to drink, so some lady in her SUV wouldn’t run over them… all for her to only run the other direction and avoid expressing any form of gratitude.

Another incident that struck me as darn rude as well… I set up a table at a Halloween event recently to pass out candy to the hundreds of kids in attendance. Again, I’m not keeping score or expecting thank-you’s, but just to set the scene… I spent about $50 on candy and trinkets to pass out. So, because this is a trick-or-treat event, I came prepared to provide for the kids. However, I was encountered by several parents who felt they could grab some candy from my candy bowl. Ok, give them the benefit of the doubt… maybe they thought this trick-or-treat event was for them, too. So, I decided to inform them that the candy was for the kids and I didn’t want to run out. Even after explaining this to the white-haired senior citizen who was there by himself, he grabbed TWO candies and said “Ok, well then I’ll just take these TWO for me” and hurriedly walked away so that I couldn’t stop him. Again, seriously??? This is for the kids! I’m there to give to the kids and he’s there to take away from my effort to give to the kids.

Here’s my final Pay it Backward example for the day and it dates back a ways. My first job out of college was at an ad agency. I graduated from college early so I was only 21 years old at the time. I wanted to move up the ranks so I worked long and hard and put in more hours than many; a typical day for me was 7:30a-6:30p. So the shock came when one day I was coming down with the stomach flu and was trying to gut it out but the nausea was overwhelming. So, as the clock reached 4:40p on what should be a 5p work day, I asked if I could leave a little early since I was ready to puke. My then supervisor gave me the look as if I was trying to rip the company off by 20 minutes and said “You do what you gotta do.”

All I’m saying here is that if someone is making an effort to do good for someone or something, it should be welcomed, appreciated, respected, etc., or that someone may not be as likely to continue doing good things. So, in addition to “Paying It Forward” we should be careful to not “Pay It Backward.”

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