21 Ways to Pay It Forward

Katie Sweeney

When was the last time that someone performed a random act of kindness that you benefited from? Chances are you probably can’t answer that question, right? Up until yesterday, I couldn’t either. I was on a plane from New Orleans to California and decided to treat myself to a glass of white wine. As I asked for a chardonnay, I held out my credit card but was shocked to learn that an anonymous gentleman rows in front of me had handed the stewardess four drink tickets with instructions to give a free drink to the next four people who ordered alcohol. It made my day and reminded me that sometimes it’s the little things that are the most important. It got me thinking, and maybe the reason I couldn’t remember a random act of kindness is because I haven’t been paying it forward often enough. Thus, I came up with this list to encourage all of us to be a little more generous. You just might make a stranger’s day.

  1. When crossing a bridge or highway that requires a toll, pay for the car behind you.
  2. Next time you are stopping by Starbucks for coffee on your way to work, pick up a drink for your teammate in the office.
  3. A wise man once told me, “You should always leave the world cleaner than when you found it.” He was referring to a campsite, but the same philosophy can be applied to any outdoor space shared by other human beings. When you walk by trash at a public beach or park, pick it up and throw it away.
  4. Bring someone you regularly see for appointments (a therapist, esthetician, hairstylist, acupuncturist, etc.) a bottle of sparkling wine for no reason.
  5. Make eye contact with a handsome man while he’s walking into the grocery store and you’re walking to your car? Leave a note telling him you thought he was cute on his car—no intentions.
  6. When you’re settling up a tab at a bar or restaurant, pick a random table and pay for that bill, too.
  7. Send a positive text message to an old friend you haven’t talked to in a long time.
  8. Say hello to and smile at everyone you pass on the street.
  9. Let the person with only a few items cut in front of you in line at the grocery store.
  10. Bring homemade baked goods to your neighborhood firehouse, police office, or homeless shelter.
  11. Write a note for a significant other expressing how important he or she is to you, and stick it a random jacket pocket. Who knows when it will be found!
  12. Know new parents who are dealing with a fussy newborn? Have dinner from their favorite restaurant delivered for a date night at home.
  13. When you see an outfit you think is cute, walk up to the person wearing it and say so, even if you’re strangers who will never see each other again.
  14. Give a server at a restaurant a much bigger tip than is necessary.
  15. Open the door for people who are loaded down with bags.
  16. Give a homeless person a gift card to Trader Joe’s or Whole Foods.
  17. If you notice a parking meter that’s about to expire, add more quarters to it, even if it’s not your car.
  18. When you find a lost jacket, bag, wallet, or cell phone at a concert or sporting event, turn it into the lost and found.
  19. If you have a great experience at a restaurant, hair salon, or other business, write a positive review of it on Yelp.
  20. While riding public transportation, offer your seat to someone who looks like he or she could use it.
  21. When people want to repay you for something, ask them to pay it forward instead.

When was the last time you paid it forward?

Add a Comment

More Stories
1