Start Your Own Pay-it-Forward Campaign on Fire Island

Spiritual Beachcombing ~ A column dedicated to nurturing your soul.

The 2023 summer season is underway. After several painstaking years of social distancing and isolation due to the pandemic, this is a great time to reconnect with others in a loving and positive manner. One way to do this is to embrace and execute the Pay-it-Forward philosophy.

Pay it forward is an expression that means if someone has helped you, instead of repaying that person, you do something helpful for another person. These random acts of kindness can go viral as one good deed begets another, fostering a sense of togetherness and love in your community.

Pay it forward isn’t a new concept. An example of this kind of thinking can be cited in the Ancient Greek comedy, “Dyskolos,” which means “The Grouch” or “The Misanthrope.” In this classic work, the playwright Menander extols the benefits of doing good deeds. The actual phrase, “pay it forward,” is often attributed to Lily Hardy Hammond. In her 1916 book “Garden of Delight,” Hammond wrote, “You don’t pay love back, you pay it forward.” Robert Heinlein’s 1951 juvenile science fiction novel “Between Planets,” has one character telling another not to pay him back, “Instead, pay it forward to some other brother who needs it.” To this day, the Heinlein Society, a humanitarian organization, supports and adheres to the concept of paying it forward. This expression gained serious momentum in 2000, with the success of the movie, “Pay It Forward,” based on Catherine Ryan Hyde’s novel of the same name. The film and the book revolve around a young boy, Trevor McKinney, who takes to heart a school assignment to go out and change the world. His positive deeds created a chain reaction that resulted in countless acts of love and kindness.

The Pay-it-Forward philosophy is an easy and fun way to incorporate small acts of kindness into your everyday life. The main idea behind this principle is that you do these good deeds without expecting anything in return other than to feel the deep sense of inner peace and personal satisfaction that comes from making another person’s life a tad bit better. Miraculously, one simple, kind, unselfish action creates a ripple effect that can continue forever.

Here are some ways to start a Pay-it-Forward Campaign in your Fire Island community. You can buy someone standing behind you a cup of coffee, donate to a local cause, volunteer for a fundraiser, help a neighbor tend to their yard, patronize local businesses, clean up debris on the beach or give a generous tip to one of the food servers in your favorite restaurant. These are all simple ways to pay it forward. Praising someone who has taken the time to do their job well, letting someone go ahead of you in the food store, or putting an inspirational book in one of the Free Little Libraries that grace your neighborhood are a few additional ways to pay it forward.

You can involve your children in this kindness explosion by going on a shell and rock hunt with them. As you walk the shoreline with your children, explain how they can pay forward the love they receive from their friends and family by searching for the perfect rocks and shells to paint loving expressions on, which they will later anonymously gift to others. Give examples of the types of sayings or words they might paint on their beach treasures, such as “Believe,” “Follow Your Bliss,” and “Love.” You can also encourage them to write their own kind, uplifting messages. Let them know it’s okay to paint a smiley face, rainbow, heart, butterfly or any positive image they wish to create. When they have finished their beach creations, the children can put them in strategic places around the island, such as by the ferry, on a bench, or in a playground. Trust that the universe will help guide the right person to the right message at the right time. Finding one of these painted rocks or shells always makes someone’s day seem blessed and touched by an angel.

Remember, goodwill is contagious, a smile can brighten someone’s day, and a reassuring word can lift another’s spirit. This summer, get in the habit of spreading kindness wherever you go, and watch Fire Island become your favorite happy place!