Pay It Forward


I’m really glad I don’t have a lot of money, because I would end up giving that shit away.

I’ve always had a really bad spending problem. I know this because reading back through old journal entries from years ago, even when I was 13-14, I would always write about things I purchased. Literally. I would go to the mall and buy shit and come back and write about it (like owning new things was the highlight of my day). You would think I would be really materialistic, but honestly I’m not. What means the most to me are things like pictures and handwritten letters; little mementos from life experiences and my journals. Everything else I could get rid of – and I often do. I’m constantly cleaning and throwing out shit I don’t need or use. I give away clothes and I like being clean and organized. Clutter irritates me.

I think I spend more money on being able to experience things, actually. Traveling has been a huge one recently, as probably everyone knows. Airline tickets and nights in hotels as well as food in places I just ‘needed’ to try. I can’t complain about that. I also spend it on other people. I’ve been known to buy my close friends things for no real reason. Someone accused me recently of buying my friends. I never really thought about it that way and I couldn’t really understand what they meant, but maybe that was why. I just like giving things to people.

What I really get the urge to do with my money is give it away.

My professor today was talking about how some of his students were sitting at a table in the campus center selling little trinkets to raise money for AIDs research. They’d already raised almost $1000. I kept thinking how awesome it would be if I just walked up to them and doubled their money. For no real reason, other than the fact that I could. It would be a nice thing to do, and it would be totally unexpected; a 24 year old white female student to just hand over $1000. I don’t make a lot of money, but I have it – and I could just give it to them.

It made me think about how I used to raise money in elementary school. I would go door to door asking people to donate anything they could for Pennies for Patients, a charity that benefits the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. The goal was to raise as much change in a three week period as possible, and I was able to collect several hundred of dollars. I think I was probably 12 or 13. I didn’t know anyone with Leukemia. I had no firsthand experience with this disease – but I could do something good for other people. I could help them and I loved doing it.

Probably for the same reason that every time I see a ‘homeless’ person on a street corner, I feel compelled to give them money. The thought even goes through my mind that MAYBE I should just make bags that have some basic necessities like toiletries and some non-perishable food items and keep them in my car just in case. I want to be prepared when I see someone who needs help. ( …hold on, what?!)

Honestly, now that I’m writing this out, it sounds kind of stupid. I don’t want anyone to think that this post is about me explaining what a nice person I want to be, because that’s not it at all. I have no problem admitting that I am still greedy and selfish. I have the option to give away all my money, but I don’t. I spend it on myself instead. I am wasteful and I constantly buy things I don’t need and overspend on the things I do – but I promised myself that one day,  I am going to do something incredible.

But how do you pick who to donate your money or time to? What exactly is a ‘worthy’ cause? I keep seeing a video on Upworthy that’s gone viral over the last two days. A guy hung an offensive sign on himself that read, ‘Fuck the Poor’ and people reacted defensively. However, when it read ‘Help the Poor’, no one even stopped.

People willing to help ARE out there. What prompts someone to actually make an effort though? Does it have to be a cause that affects them personally? Maybe it’s just that they’ve heard that when donating to charities, the actual beneficiary of the majority of the money isn’t who they claim. It’s interesting how people react to certain things. When 9/11 happened, we came together as an entire nation. When natural disasters occur, we feel compelled to help. Why does something tragic have to happen for people to respond? Why must it always be negative before people come forward? That’s my biggest question.

Part of the reason I really want to get into nursing is so that I can go on humanitarian missions and help vaccinate people. We all know how important health insurance & health care have become lately, but what about those people who don’t have an option? What about those third world countries that literally have NO healthcare? There’s just something really rewarding about doing something for someone that they can’t do for themselves. (Whether this is actually a selfish thing is totally debatable – but I’d like to think it’s not.)

I think that’s why random acts of kindness are so amazing. They’re completely random and indiscriminate. I want to be someone who helps facilitate these. I want people to know that good things happen just because; there doesn’t have to be a reason behind doing something nice for someone. You don’t have to be a victim for someone to reach out to you. I think it’s really important that people know this.

These are the types of things that have the potential to touch people in a positive way. They make people think. Things that people can’t explain make people think. I want to do things for people where my motive can’t be explained, other than I do them because I can and I am able. I want to do things for people that make them want to pay it forward.