6 of the Most Inspiring Pay It Forward Chains

Strangers perform an inspiring domino effect of good deeds.

Mar 18, 2015
Special Collections: LEND A HAND
pay it forward

The pay it forward model. [Shutterstock]

Fifteen years ago, Kevin Spacey, Helen Hunt and the adorable Haley Joel Osment starred in the movie Pay It Forward, popularizing the concept of creating a chain of good deeds performed by strangers. Since then, paying it forward has stepped out of the movies and into real life, with numerous stories of acts of kindness for strangers appearing on the news.

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The domino effect of goodness has been looked at in a scientific way, with researchers citing that generosity among strangers can be socially contagious. If you receive or observe and act of help, you will be more likely to help others, even if your own action won’t be directly reciprocated or rewarded.
Looking to cement the importance of paying it forward, there is even an official day dedicated to being generous taking place on April 30 this year. Performing random acts of kindness is quite easy - see how you can extend a good deed to the next person and create a ripple effect of goodness like these six inspiring pay it forward chains below.

1. PAYING IT FORWARD WITH FLIGHTS

The airline company JetBlue has initiated the Flying It Forward program, which gives select passengers a free flight that they in turn pass on to someone else. The program started when JetBlue crew members nominated individuals in their community and extends to travelers that are looking to fulfill a dream, join a humanitarian effort or make a meaningful impact on the world.
CHAIN LENGTH: Started in October 2014, JetBlue has paid it forward with 10 flights and counting. 

flying it forward

The Flying It Forward map. [Screenshot]

2. PAYING IT FORWARD WITH PIZZA

Mason Wartman, the owner of Philadelphia’s Rosa’s Fresh Pizza, got into the pay it forward game when a customer asked to pay for the next person’s pizza. Wartman grabbed a post-it note, wrote up a makeshift pizza voucher and stuck it on the wall for someone to cash in for a warm meal. One slice turned into hundreds, which turned into thousands - and now post-its line the walls of the pizzeria.
CHAIN LENGTH: In the past year or so, Rosa’s has given away over 8,000 slices of pizza, feeding some 40 homeless people daily.

pizza

Rosa's Fresh Pizza pays it forward in a tasty way. [Shutterstock]

3. PAYING IT FORWARD WITH KIDNEY TRANSPLANTS

Loyola University Medical Center took the pay it forward concept and extended it to vital kidney donations. Based on altruistic donors, kidneys were given to compatible transplant candidates who can typically wait up to five years to receive a transplant. The giving chain cut down the waiting time to six months to a year.
CHAIN LENGTH: Starting in 2011, Loyola holds the record for the longest kidney transplant chain in the U.S. linking 60 lives and 30 kidneys. 

showing where the kidneys are on a body

Giving the gift of life with a kidney transplant chain. [Shutterstock]

4. PAYING IT FORWARD WITH LATTES 

A St. Petersburg, Florida Starbucks experienced a java pay it forward chain when caffeine lovers treated the next customer in the drive through to a coffee. The chain began at 7 a.m. on a Wednesday morning, when a woman in her 60s told the cashier that she was paying both for her own iced coffee and for the caramel macchiato the stranger behind her had ordered.
CHAIN LENGTH: For 11 hours, 378 Starbucks customers paid it forward. 

starbucks cups

Starbucks to go! [Flickr

5. PAYING IT FORWARD WITH MEALS

After a 12-hour nursing shift, Kathleen Connors went to her local diner in Barre, Vermont for a well-deserved breakfast. With a pocket full of bingo winnings, Connor spotted a father and son eating together and decided to foot their bill. 
CHAIN LENGTH: Connors single act of generosity spurred a 6 hour tab with 46 meals paid for by local diners. 

eating a meal at a restaurant

Treating fellow diners to a free and tasty meal. [Flickr]

6. PAYING IT FORWARD WITH DONUTS

A tasty pay it forward chain graced the Heav'nly Donuts drive-thru in Amesbury, Massachusetts. Eileen Taylor, who had recently lost her job, decided that even though money is tighter these days, she would continue the generosity chain after a woman in front of her paid for her beverages.
CHAIN LENGTH: 55 customers treated fellow sweet-toothed strangers to an uninterrupted chain of tasty donuts. 

donuts

A sweet pay it forward chain. [Shutterstock]

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