Inspiring “Pay-It-Forward” Ideas

It was just a few days after I posted an article about kindness in which the idea came from my disappointment about justice system in my country, Indonesia. Talking about that alone surely can take over my entire day and require endless words; so I will try to summarize it into one sentence: Our beloved former governor of DKI Jakarta, Mr. Basuki Tjahaja Purnama (Ahok) was sentenced to 2-years-in-prison for an accused blasphemy case against Islam despite all of his hard-work and sacrifices while serving people in Jakarta (including creating numerous programs like building mosques and sending people who worked for mosque to go to Makkah – which actually supported Moslem). He’s known to be a double-minority (a Christian, and comes from Chinese family) – which led to a very depressing fact: that no matter how honest and hard-working you are as a person, with a passion to deliver best service to society around you, you are never good enough in Indonesia if: 1) you have different religion than the majority of the people and 2) you are not pribumi – the term that some bigots use to identify “pure Indonesian”.

Right about when I was trying to move on from this heart-breaking truth, I heard the news about suicide bomb attack in Ariana Grande concert venue in Manchester, England, which killed more than 20 young people


When I was writing this piece, suddenly there was another terror attack in my capital city, Jakarta. The world is just getting crazier and crazier each day.

Therefore, I’d like to write more about compassion – to show the world that good people are still exist!

Here I cover fringe, miraculous “pay-it-forward” ideas that have been implemented by some companies and organizations to make this world a better place.

In case you don’t know, the phrase “pay-it-forward” was first introduced by a Greek dramatist, Menander, in his comedy work called Dyskolos in 317 BC.  I personally recognized this terminology from one American drama-romance movie which was released in 2000 with the title “Pay It Forward”. The movie was about a young elementary school student who was assigned a school project: performing actions that contribute positively to the society. Then, he came up with an idea called “pay-it-forward” – doing a favor for three random people, and telling them to do the same to other three strangers.

Rosa’s Fresh Pizza


With the motto “The Freshest Slice in Philly”, Rosa’s Fresh Pizza established a program for customers to pre-purchase a slice of pizza for $1. Those slices are served for free to homeless people every day at 11 p.m. In return, the customers who donate will get a piece of sticky note and they can write something nice for those people without shelters. The noble idea itself came from one customer who asked the owner of the restaurant, if it’s possible to buy pizzas for those in needs. Till now, this pizza store which located in Philadelphia, USA has delivered more than ten thousands slices of fresh pizza and successfully made homeless people feel loved. Even more than that, there are heart-touching stories from the regular homeless customers who are no longer showing up because they’re already working!

The Street Store


Homelessness is inevitable; it’s everywhere. Especially in countries with huge gap between the rich and the poor, we can practically see those without homes while we are walking towards school or running errands. Just because it is common to see them, it doesn’t mean that it’s okay to do nothing about this. The Street Store, which originally created in Cape Town, South Africa, was designed to bridge the economical gap. Their mission statement is as simple as their slogan “hang up, help out”: to make it easier to donate and more dignified to receive. The  Haven Night Shelter – a non-profit organization focused on homelessness in South Africa – was the initiator of this project. The Street Store provides interesting posters that you can hang in the corner of the street, spreading the news and informing people to donate clothes, shoes, and accessories that they no longer want to wear. After that, the homeless people can help themselves by choosing what they want to keep for free. What’s really cool about this project is: everybody in this world can host their own “The Street Store” program in the city they live in just by going to their website. They will send you all necessary files (posters, guidebook, presentation), and soon after you have a permit from the authorities, you can set up your own pop-up store. The first Street Store took place in 2014, and since then, more than 450 stores has been hosted globally, for example in Brussel, Mumbai, Auckland, and Georgia.



Since the beginning of its operations, Toms Shoes (abbreviation from Tomorrow Shoes) has been inspired by social awareness. Blake Mycoskie, the founder of this company, produced canvas shoes after seeing alpargatas – traditional shoes with simple design that worn by Argentine farmers in 2006. He also recognized the fact that there were so many poor children in Argentine who couldn’t afford to buy shoes. At that time, there was help from social organization. However, the number of shoes was totally unstable, relying fully on donations, and there were mismatches between the donations and the recipient’s feet size. Therefore, Mycoskie wanted to do something more. He came up with “shoes for tomorrow project”. For each pair of shoes that are sold to customers, TOMS would give another pair to children in needs. In 2011, this American company expanded its product to glasses, with the same “one-for-one” concept. Now, we can purchase shoes, eyewear, coffee, and bags from TOMS and the gift of shoes, sight, water, safe birth, and kindness are going to be delivered to people in need. TOMS has reached more than 70 million people across six continents.


Ellen DeGeneres: Promoting Kindness through Her Show


I have been watching The Ellen DeGeneres Show probably since 2013 and that show has never failed in making me laugh. The real main talent behind this show is the host itself, Ellen DeGeneres.

In The Ellen DeGeneres Show, you can mainly watch how Ellen invites numerous names of public figures to sit down and have a great time talking to her and to the live audience. Not only celebrities, she also loves to invite regular people with particular talent (from 3 year old kid who can memorize and explain everything which are included in a periodic table, 6 year old kid who masters the geography of the world, or adorable girl who sings together with her father) and people who happened to be famous even without talent but somehow went viral (this cute guy called Alex who worked at Target). There are also varieties of games, Ellen’s funny monologue, giveaways, and many other segments in that 1 hour long show.

However, it is not an instant success. In 2001, she was trying to create a television sitcom starring herself and other characters under the name The Ellen Show, but it resulted in poor ratings, so it was no longer played after 13 episodes. Ellen revealed it was mainly because she decided to come out as gay through her character in that series, Ellen Richmond.  It was a difficult time for her career-wise; she was completely turned down from the entertainment industry for 3 years.

In 2003 she finally got an offer to run a talk show – which became a huge success till now. The Ellen DeGeneres Show has obtained several “Emmy Awards” in categories such as “Outstanding Talk Show”, and “Outstanding Talk Show Host”. During the period 2004 to 2014, Ellen has won 25 Emmy Awards. Ellen was also included in the list made by Forbes, 50 most powerful women in the world, in 2015. Winning 20 People’s Choice Award was also one of her achievement that nobody else could compete with.  Honestly, I’ve never seen any other person who is so comfortable and so happy doing their job. She’s completely herself in that show.

It is so difficult to find a celebrity that can be a good role-model, but Ellen is different. I really love how she consistently applies her mantra “being kind to one another” in her daily show. By applying, it doesn’t mean only by saying that quote in the end of her show. It means practicing what she says in random act of kindness. Anyway, it is so smart and nice of her to use her talk show, an established platform, to show to millions viewers out there that it’s possible to make this world a better place. She can easily reach people that might need her help. She can invite them to talk on the show and give nice things to them. And at the same times, two things are done: 1) doing good things to other people and 2) increase even more ratings to her show which enable her to do even greater things to more people.

She often makes other people’s dream come true –  such as meeting their favorite singer or delivering their skills in national television so that other people can know them better. One time she rewarded ten-thousand dollars to a 19 year old teenager who donated his bone marrow to a complete stranger. Other time she helped an English-teacher to sell her school project through Ellen’s website and paid off her student debts with the help of sponsored bank! What Ellen and all these amazing people do also reminds me that you do not need to be so wealthy to help people – in one episode, she had a talk with a waitress who decided to give a free lunch to two customers who complained about their decreasing wages. The story went viral and, as it turned out, in The Ellen deGeneres Show, she paid back what the waitress has done by giving her ten-thousand-dollars.

Watching her show makes me realize of so many good things that happen in this world and there are still so many people with big heart who are willing to help others. Especially in this recent time, there are a huge amount of negativity spreading in my country, watching her show – even just for a tiny bit of it – can make my day better.

Ellen’s powerful message of kindness is now become a reason for viewers to watch her show. And I do hope it will inspire us to do the same.

“We need to remember that we are more similar than we are different. We all want the same thing; love, acceptance, and kindness.” – Ellen deGeneres