Thursday, April 19, 2012
A Little Experiment
From time to time I've mentioned in my posts the "pay it forward" concept. The idea is quite simple: rather than paying someone "back" for a kindness done to you, you can pay it "forward" to someone else; and if everyone did this, kindness would rapidly spread in a viral fashion. Most of the time, I've simply done my act of kindness and have hoped that the recipient might consider doing something nice for another in return, though I've rarely suggested it explicitly. A few times I've included a note that asked the question, "What can you do today to make someone else's day just a little bit brighter?" That's as close as I've come.
Since this year is about trying different things and seeing what happens, I thought I might try a little experiment to see if I could more overtly suggest paying it forward, without ruining the essence of my act of kindness. I conducted my first such test today. Here's what happened:
On my way home this evening I stopped at a 7-11 store to buy a bottle of Gatorade. After my purchase I was standing in front of the store opening my drink when a woman pulled into the parking lot. By her dress, she looked like she might be a nurse just getting off work. I pulled out one of my Dunkin' Donuts gift cards (there was one right next door) and asked her if she'd like a $5 gift card to Dunkin Donuts. She smiled and looked at me a little quizzically. I told her that my only condition was that she do something nice for someone else today. She answered, "I'll definitely do that. I'm a really nice person" and she gladly took the card.
Obviously I'll never know whether or not she actually carried out her promise, but the fact that I asked and that she said she would certainly have to increase the odds pretty significantly. I'm pleased to see that it was easy to make that stipulation and I didn't feel like it lessened the "purity" of my act of kindness in any way. I think I'll continue to try to add this element to as many of my acts as is reasonably appropriate.