Pay It Forward

By Genevieve Grant

“Pay it forward,” my sister tells me from her bathtub next to mine. This isn’t something I usually do, or have ever done, but here we are, on a rooftop spa in the middle of downtown San Francisco, as a going away gift to me from my sister. 

I’ve been blessed to grow up surrounded by an older family, with older sisters, and many role models who never seem to run out of advice. But most of this advice has to do with the minutia of life, and not the substance of it. Her advice was almost as refreshing as the spa day, after weeks of, “Take a wild class, you never know- it could change your life!” and “Don’t over commit yourself! Time management!”

Her advice is, “pay it forward.” Not with the expectation of something back, not to seem nice. Just do it because it helps someone, and because you are nice. And if you don’t think you are nice (I mean, this is a political science school, we’re all snakes) do it to be nicer.

Not with the expectation of something back, not to seem nice. Just do it because it helps someone, and because you are nice.

I want you to think of something nice someone has done for you, whether here in Menton or back home. My sister took me on a spa day, Nikolas Tsili’s mother came to his graduation day in London, despite the fact that she just had surgery, Manny Feigl got a sweet letter from an old friend that made his day.  

And in return, think of something nice that you can do for someone else. Helping a South African rugby player find a working toilet yesterday “‘cause he had to sht,” writing your parents a postcard, stopping your friend from chanting “Islamiyah, Islamiyah” on a bus so you don’t get beat up. All of these things, big or small, show that you care, but they also improve your community.

Now, when the opportunity arises, do it. When there are too many cooks in the kitchen, use the microwave. When someone’s freaking out because the student space is down, help them out. When you see a coworker or classmate falling asleep, grab them some coffee.

When there are too many cooks in the kitchen, use the microwave.

I have never seen a place where these random acts of kindness are needed more than here at Sciences Po, where are so many opportunities for trouble, and not the fun kind. A philosophy of kindness can be the difference between a great night and a terrible one, between danger and safety: “One time I got really drunk, and you took me home so I didn’t die. Two weeks later, I did the same for you.”

“When I was really sick and couldn’t go out, my friends would come to my house and sit with me and make sure I was okay, even if they had better things to do with their time than sit in my room at 11PM for weeks on end.

Now I try to take care of other people when they need it, whether they’re sick, or drunk, or require an outlet for semi lucid angsty ranting, because I know how important it is and what a difference just having someone there can make.”

Someone, at some point, has done something nice for you. To “pay it forward” is to continue this chain, by helping someone besides the one who helped you, because whether or not they return it, you’re creating a positive change. It’s like reverse Karma. “After Friday night math, a friend always makes me dinner. I lent my timberland sweatshirt to you when you were going to walk across town freezing cold.” There’s seemingly no connection here, and that’s the point. Javi Moraleda needed food, and I needed a sweater. It’s a chain of giving, with no expectation of return or compensation.

So my advice to you is this: Lend that girl fifty cents so she can get her shtty coffee from the vending machine. Carry that guy you just met home from Monaco. Share your notes with the people who were up too late. Eventually, you will need coffee, consider stumbling home alone, or be falling asleep in class.

Plenty of your actions will come back to bite you in the ass. Why not have some come back to give you a hug?

All you have to say is, “You’re welcome!” 

Photo from pinterest:–camping-outdoors-camping-nature.jpg

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