Pay It Forward
Gail Pursell Elliott


Over 25 years ago I stumbled upon a philosophy or theory that I really liked and made a lot of sense.  It had to do with paying back a kindness by going out and doing a kind act for ten other people, asking each of them to do the same if they wanted to repay the kindness.  In this way, good and kind actions would multiply exponentially.

I discovered that same principle, modified, in a movie that came out a few years ago called Pay It Forward.   The story centers around a middle school student who is given a beginning of the school year assignment in social studies to come up with a way to change the world. 

He comes up with a plan he calls "Pay It Forward."  His plan consists of doing something big for three people and telling them to pay it forward to three other people. Again the idea of good deeds multiplying themselves.  The student has a number of criteria, however.  First that it must be "something big" that is done.  The second is that it must be "something hard to do." 

The most difficult part of this exercise for the student is not to see the results of his actions.  He selects three people and begins his experiment.  He does not see the change in terms of helping them that he had hoped. We see him cross off each of the people he helped, discouraged that the principle did not work.

What he is unaware of is that even though the people's lives do not seem to change much as a result of his actions, that his effort is remembered by each of them and causes them to look for opportunities to "pay it forward."   He has no idea of how many people were touched as a result of his actions, nor how far it traveled, which was extensive.

Most of us have found ourselves in the same position as this student.  We try to help someone or do something meaningful or important and see no results.  We may become discouraged or feel that the effort was wasted. 

In truth, nothing is ever wasted and everything we say and do has an impact of which we are never aware.  We may be fortunate enough to see some results of our efforts, but the greatest portion of the impact we have is beyond our ability to see or experience.  Think of all the people who have touched your life over the years and impacted it for the better.  How many of them are aware of the impact that they had upon your life?  In addition to that, how often have these actions set the tone for our actions towards others?  When we contemplate this, we begin to see how interconnected we really are and how much power we have.

Each of us creates a legacy and sets the foundation for the future. 

Gail Pursell Elliott, "The Dignity and Respect Lady".  Innovations "Training With A Can-Do Attitude" TM;  Promoting Dignity and Respect, No Exceptions.  In Companies and Communities Nationwide.


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Yes, life can be mysterious and confusing--but there's much of life that's actually rather dependable and reliable.  Some principles apply to life in so many different contexts that they can truly be called universal--and learning what they are and how to approach them and use them can teach us some of the most important lessons that we've ever learned.
My doctorate is in Teaching and Learning.  I use it a lot when I teach at school, but I also do my best to apply what I've learned to the life I'm living, and to observe how others live their lives.  What makes them happy or unhappy, stressed or peaceful, selfish or generous, compassionate or arrogant?  In this book, I've done my best to pass on to you what I've learned from people in my life, writers whose works I've read, and stories that I've heard.  Perhaps these principles can be a positive part of your life, too!
Universal Principles of Living Life Fully.  Awareness of these principles can explain a lot and take much of the frustration out of the lives we lead.