Pay It Forward Day, but who’s paying?

“Small acts, when multiplied by millions of people, can change the world for the better”.

Today is Pay It Forward Day, which is a global initiative that advocates for acts of kindness. As I was scrolling through their list of things that they suggest you can do, I came across this one: “Help someone out in need“. And while I am all for acts of kindness no matter how big or small they are, I’d like to challenge this thought.


Ever since I was little, I have always loved volunteering. Maybe it was the look joy from these people who actually appreciated my efforts. Maybe it was a feeling of pride that I was helping those in need. Maybe I just wanted to make a change. One thing I can say for sure though, is that I did things because I ‘felt sorry’.


I always have too much fun volunteering

My long string of ‘feeling sorry’ had led me to so many different corners of the world. A recent one was when I signed up for a field trip with my uni to learn and research on the topic of disability and inclusion in Indonesia. Part of our research project was to interview people on a chosen topic, and one of the topics my group wanted to focus on was stigma, so the questions were along the lines of “Do you think you would be treated differently if you didn’t have your disability?”


Providing prosthetics for persons with disabilities

As you’d expect, most people thought they would be treated differently if they didn’t have their disability. However, the reason they gave surprised me. It wasn’t because they didn’t want their disability. In fact, most of them said they embraced it and used it to find their niche skills. They thought they would be treated differently because of us – those who don’t have a disability. We were the ones who thought they needed help. We were the ones who thought we needed to give them whatever is ‘missing’ in their lives, whether it’s the ability to walk or having a normal capacity to learn. We were the ones who ‘felt sorry’, when they didn’t actually want or need our pity in the first place. What they wanted was for us to change.


The picture above is Titi, who makes 1000(!) screen printings a day. Not only is she efficient in her workshop, but she’s also a fashionista (you can’t see it in the photo, but she’s wearing some pretty funky genie pants), a loving mother and a community-focussed member of the society. But if we’re going out today just to commit a ‘small act’, we would not see that. Instead, we would do things like help her pick up that bag she accidentally dropped, or pushed her along the wheelchair even though she would be faster wheeling it on her own.

Small acts of kindness


So let it be Pay It Forward Day. Heck, I hope people pay kindness forward every day and make each day that little bit brighter. This isn’t meant to be a post on telling you to be cynical whenever you give. Rather, I hope you’ll learn how strange the word ‘kindness’ means. It implies a one-directional giving of something so treasurable and needed, and that thing is to be received by the other person. But I hope that this Pay It Forward Day, this kindness can be reciprocated, because you never know what you’ll learn when you give. Now, remind me, who’s the one that’s paying the kindness again?



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