I recently watched an episode of “Caught in Providence” the true life traffic crimes court series that has grabbed the attention of the world and in that episode a single mother was gifted an amount to help her pay her traffic fines.The money was donated by a woman who had found herself in a similar situation where she, a single parent with limited means had to pay a traffic fine. The conditions of the gift were that the offender must be a female and a single parent with a low income.
The joy on the face of the offender when she heard that a total stranger had been so kind and mindful of someone else’s predicament was priceless.
It reminded me of the story that reverberated across social media sometime last year of the street hawker, who sold Gala along Awolowo Road Ikoyi and who gave his entire stock to prisoners that were being ferried along the way because he knew what it was to be unjustly locked up and hungry.
Although he wasn’t thinking of any reward at the time he acted, he was ultimately rewarded for his generosity and empathy and his story was read globally on the HONY (The Humans of New York) series by Brandon Stanton.
“Pay it forward” as defined by Wikipedia is an expression which describes the beneficiary of a good deed repaying it to others instead of to the original benefactor.” The concept is very old and has been around since the mid-1700s. Essentially, it is all about paying back a good deed done to one to a stranger in similar circumstances.
It is the height of empathy when we can stand in another’s shoes and help them because we ourselves have been helped by others. This phenomenon is common in the developed countries and many people including celebrities have confessed to being recipients of several favours from people they didn’t know or had any relationship with. In many cases they have in turn been benefactors to others.
The concept has become widespread and is gaining momentum, In 2000, Catherine Ryan Hyde’s novel Pay It Forward was published and adapted into a film with the same name . In Ryan Hyde’s book and the movie, paying it forward is described as an obligation to do three good deeds for others in response to a good deed that one receives. Such good deeds should accomplish things that the other person cannot accomplish on their own. In this way, the practice of helping one another can spread geometrically through society at a ratio of three to one, creating a social movement with an impact of making the world a better place.
The concept has been institutionalized and the international Pay It Forward day, the last Thursday in April founded by Blake Beattie in Australia in 2007, has become a global phenomenon.
Do you know what it felt like to be lonely, desperate, hungry, homeless. Do you look back and wish that someone, anyone came to your aid. Are you aware that just close to you someone is in that same position as you once were and is praying for help to come?
The things we can do to make life easier for others are myriad and we shouldn’t limit it to one day in a year especially in a country like Nigeria. We can do a lot to help living become much easier for others and ultimately for ourselves.
So, tomorrow please pay for the meal of the person behind you at that Buka, pay someone else’s danfo or bus fare, give someone a free ride on your way to work, pay for someone’s medical test at the hospital or their bill (people are dying because they can’t afford N5,000), dash the street hawker your change.
“We believe that small acts, when multiplied by millions of people, can literally change the world for the better,” the Pay It Forward Day website, which aims to inspire more than 10 million acts of kindness around the world, states.
The operative word is small acts. They need not be monetary and needn’t be much but they do a lot of good. A smile, a kind word, a compliment, a meal, a gift, a listening ear, a thoughtful remark, all these help us to be more human…more Godlike.
I realise now that this was what Mr. Aisi was doing all those times when he went above and beyond duty with his students who he did not just teach and help but many of whom he practically “adopted” becoming mentor and surrogate father.
Today, long after his passing his kind deeds continue to reverberate.
“Be the change you want to see in the world.” Mahatma Gandhi.