one step, two step, pay it forward or pay it back?

if I had a dollar…

I’m curious about people who must have everything tallied & balanced in the immediate checks & balances of life versus those who are willing to let it all work out in the ebbs & flows.

Which are you? Do you have the confidence & faith to be a generous and comfortable giver or taker?

“I’ll pay you back”. “You got it last time”. “I’m in debt to you”… and their many variations annoy me considerably… pllleeaaaaassse have a civilised conversation about arrangements financial or otherwise if you must, and get on with it.

My view? The metaphorical you scratch my back I’ll scratch yours, is ok if you need a reciprocal back scratch, otherwise it’s a waste of time & energy. Far better to be patient, wait & conserve resources until someone who really needs to have their back scratched comes along. Is this all too metaphorical?

Let me put it this way…

Simple but good example: I had coffee with a friend a couple of times in the last month or so. This friend is a mum & currently doesn’t do paid work. She spent quite a few dollars to make her visits to the city. She was happy to pay for her coffee but I paid both times with the reasoning one day when she was working again & I wasn’t she could pay for the coffee for me or someone else. This time if she chose, she could spend her funds on herself later such as a nice lunch or a glass of sparkly, which she did.

Another simple but good example: I have a friend who I have been “doing stuff with” for more than 25 years. I pay, she pays, we go halvies. We know we’ll be doing it again. It doesn’t matter.

I learnt about the concept of “pay it forward” early in life. It’s the way my family does things, they look after their own, and others if they can, and don’t expect anything in return. Until last year I’d never heard about “pay it forward” as a philosophy. In fact, I learnt much of the trivia surrounding it doing research for this blog post.

From my childhood memories there was always someone to lend a hand, furniture being given out, handed back and swapped, a spare room for a few weeks or…, clothes recycled, home grown milk, eggs & veges distributed, afternoon tea & an ear available, and so on. Nothing was expected back. It went on and around. My cousin now has the futon her mother gave to me which I later gave to her daughter. It makes perfect sense. 

Simple but frustrating example: Many, many years ago an older family member was generous with time & money and helped me make my way into the wide world of adult life. Why do they now insist on arguing at the supermarket checkout over who pays for joint purchases when half & half was agreed on? Why does the same family member catalogue, calculate & [attempt to] schedule occasions with the only purpose of payback for another?

Complicated and really frustrating example: Another family member, but younger, who I had the privilege of giving the same type of support I received, but who also in turn has done the same for yet another younger family member, insists a dozen years later they still owe me. Why can’t I just pay for my own breakfast?

Lastly, a shining example: New neighbours, at the time one a stay at home mum, the other working & commuting long hours, moved into newly built houses and helped each other out in various neighbourly ways. I’ll be forever grateful to this beautiful person, who on many occasions would call out as I drove up the driveway in the dark “I’ve made dinner”, and in her home I would recover from the day with a glass of wine, dinner & friendship. Our paths diverged but we remain in touch.

The trivia…
The “pay it forward” concept was used as a key plot element in play in ancient Athensin 317 BC and it’s had a reasonable amount of coverage since then.
It is the subject of many quotes, In 1916, Lily Hardy Hammond wrote, “You don’t pay love back; you pay it forward.”
It is also the subject of work by Benjamin Franklin & Ralph Waldo Emerson among others.
In 2000, Catherine Ryan Hyde’s novel Pay It Forward was published and adapted into a film. Subsequently the Pay it Forward Movement and Foundation was founded in the USA.
In 2007 International Pay it Forward Day, celebrated on 28 April was founded in Australia and has now spread to 35 countries.
(Source: Wikipedia)

Postscript: An additional word on “pay it forward”. Last Friday I was fortunate to attend an information session where the speaker was Rebecca Ordish, who before establishing the The Mitrataa Foundation with her husband, was a lawyer with the firm I work at.
“The Mitrataa Foundation’s vision is to do itself out of a job in Nepal. Founded by Australian couple, Bec and Adam Ordish, Mitrataa works with women and girls, teaching them to dream and empowering them through education and training initiatives.  The Foundation’s model is to share skills and create opportunities that encourage the people of Nepal to take responsibility for their future. “
Rather than pay back the foundation which is run through fundraising and donations, the “graduates” are encourage to reciprocate via assisting others in various areas of the program. A great example of “pay it forward”.

Shortly after I began WordPress blogging I came across Commonwealth Bank’s Women in Focus Global Blogger Search Competition – In My Shoes. It was a great opportunity to practise blogging and continue my D.I.Y. social media education. For me the prize was the process, although it would have been a hoot to travel to New York or Mt Kilimanjaro with Mrs S.  

Fortunately several elladee post ideas leant themselves to the theme. Now the competition has ended I’m posting them as intended, with a few edits thanks to wisdom of Robin Coyle. 

This is post 3 of 4 of my blog “one foot in front of the other”

14 thoughts on “one step, two step, pay it forward or pay it back?

  1. love your post elladee, i know exactly what you are talking about, those who keep tally just have trouble living in the moment, they dont see the bigger picture of energy moving around, those who see it can relax and let be, and life is always exciting for them as opportunities flow their way 🙂 p.s. i support a young student in nepal through a yoga link, so worthwhile!


    1. Thank you… one of the things I like about blogging is the (non-fiscal) generosity of bloggers – so much encouragement & support. I was amazed during the session with Bec to see how much difference so little money makes to a student in Nepal.


  2. Fifteen years ago, my 3 month old baby was diagnosed with stage 4 liver cancer. He didn’t die. As far as I’m concerned, we were given the greatest gift ever, and there’s no way we can ever repay it, so the only thing to do is to pay it forward in all aspects of life. Does that make sense? Having said that, I try not to let myself be taken advantage of. But that is becoming less of a problem as I get older and (hopefully) wiser… 🙂


  3. A great post.
    We know a person to whom favours are almost a currency. If she does you a favour you owe, and it WILL be called upon at some time in the future. We won’t even accept an innocent dinner invitation, what on earth will we be letting ourselves into?! How can she ever relax and just appreciate what she has?

    We live by the pay it forward in advance theory. One day, when it is really needed, the universe will repay those good things you did. You do good things, good things happen to you. 🙂


  4. I can relate to everything in this post. Mainly because I have swung from one extreme to another. I certainly did have a nice tidy organised life in my youth and felt everything should be equal. But with age comes enlightenment – and a partner who is always happy to help people on the grounds that one day he may need help and hopefully there may be someone there for him. He is quite notorious for helping people with vehicle problems who he has never seen before in his life 😀

    I’m not sure I like the phrase pay it forward (or pay back or pay anything) as it still smacks of a financial currency transaction.

    For me these days my approach is much simpler – if someone needs help and I can provide it, then I’ll do my best. And if they want to say thanks in whatever way, I’ll accept because that’s what they want to do. But a lot of it really depends on financial situations too. I think people who have been helped don’t want to appear as scroungers or bludgers – because sadly the generous of heart are not that common on the ground 😦 – so they want to show their appreciation.

    It’s a complex issue, so many differing situations, motivation, and made even worse by human emotions getting in the way!

    Loved your trivia collection, nice addition to the post.


  5. Thank you – it’s interesting how views and attitudes change, my “older family member” was relaxed about such things when younger but now everything is tallied and balanced, but your point I think hits the mark, they don’t want to appear to be taking advantage. I also thought the same for a while about the “pay” aspect but I hope the “pay it forward” will help take the emphasis of the financial aspect in favour of “doing”. It is a complex issue which is why I propose up front discussions & accord 🙂


  6. I loved reading about your interpretation on Paying it Forward. I´ve always loved that idea, too.

    Congratulations, EllaDee – You have inspired another blogger to feature your blog as a link in the CBBH Photo Challenge. Well done!

    As your reward, you are now entitled to grab the – CONEJO BLANCO BLOG HOP Featured Me! BUTTON – from the East of Málaga ( ) home page to display in your sidebar.


  7. Thank you so much. I have attached the cute button, and had a look at your fabulous blog. I’ve been away but look forward to having a more in depth visit 🙂


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