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Pay It Forward

[First published as "Truth Pick #138," January 7, 2002, by Peter de Jager, and reprinted with permission. Copyright © 2002 Peter de Jager.]

"Pay it forward."
—Robert Heinlein

When we grant a favour, we forge a connection between ourselves and our community. Our strength grows along with our willingness to share it.

With each favour granted, the receiver assumes the responsibility of obligation. Debts must be repaid. The books at the end must balance.

As the giver, though, we have a choice. We can demand the debt be paid back to us, or for it to be paid forward. A debt paid forward allows the connections we've forged to grow in length and strength.

Most favours are given from the surplus we've acquired. We're able to grant them because, for us, the cost of giving to someone in need is less than the value they'll receive. Even if the favour is never repaid to us, our loss is minimal. Why then not pass the favour to another?

With luck, the favour will take on a life of its own, moving through the future like a legacy of goodwill. Who will it affect? That's part of the wonder of a wandering favour.

The world that comes after us is the one we leave behind us.

Send feedback to Peter de Jager.


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