Pay It Forward

When I was studying Psychology in Boston in year 2001, one of the “cool” professors in social psychology asked us to find a film that can demonstrate a social phenomenon and write a paper on it. I had chosen to write about Reciprocity.

Reciprocity in social psychology refers to responding to a positive action with another positive action, rewarding kind actions.

The social norm of reciprocity is the expectation that people will respond to each other in similar ways—responding to gifts and kindnesses from others with similar benevolence of their own, and responding to harmful, hurtful acts from others with either indifference or some form of retaliation.

With all honesty, I cannot remember the researches or the scientific evidences which I had used in my paper, nor can I remember how well I did on that paper. What I do remember really clearly, however, was the film I had watched over and over again for it.

Couple weeks ago, I revisited this film because I couldn’t believe that my boyfriend has never even heard of this film before. With just as much tear as I had more than ten years ago, I was also surprised just how profoundly relevant the story of the little boy Trevor is to what we want to do with Fyrefly. So I did a bit googling. Curiously, I found two unofficial Facebook pages that were set up in 2009 and 2011. Sure, back in 2000, social media was certainly not as widely-spread as it is now, but why the sudden interest in the film? This naturally brought me to the Pay It Forward movement that has dedicated the last Thursday of April to be the Pay It Forward Day from 2007 since when it has become a global movement with supporters around the world. The film itself is still used to spread their idea, as well as the book by Catherine Ryan Hyde, based on which the film was produced.

Without scientific evidence or real statistics, almost naively, I see this as the living-proof to that paper I wrote more than ten years ago. Catherine Ryan Hyde wrote the book because she had received a random act of kindness from a stranger who had inspired her to write the book, which was then made into the film Pay It Forward. Since then, many have been inspired to be a little kinder to others, who then might be inspired to be a little kinder to others as well. Of course, the concept itself is based on Reciprocity, which is of course ancient and is embedded in our very nature. With the power of internet today, the emergent phenomenon out of which it has created is able to be much more visible because people now have the tools to share these stories around the world and to find one another who shares this value.

In philosophy, systems theory, science, and art, emergence is the way complex systems and patterns arise out of a multiplicity of relatively simple interactions. Emergence is central to the theories of integrative levels and of complex systems.

Last week, we were fortunate to attend a wonderful event, Campfire x Peter Tatchell, hosted by our friends at Ditto. Peter Tatchell shared his personal stories about dedicating his life as an activist defending human rights. As a man who has always been at the front-line of direct campaigns where he has been beat up or nearly captured many times, he now also embraces the power of internet. When he was asked about his view on “Slacktivists“, his response was generous and sincere. Even if you only do a little bit, it’s still better than doing nothing at all. He humbly said that he does not perceive himself to be either courageous or extraordinary (although he really is!), but he simply does his best to changes things that he believes to be wrong. If we can all do the best we can to make the world better, he said, together we can make the world better.

Don’t accept the world as it is. Dream about what the world could be – then help make it happen. - Peter Tatchell Foundation

Tomorrow marks the 7th Pay It Forward Day, will you take part in the movement?

Start with our own small actions; together, we make big difference.

Learn more about the Global Pay it Forward Movement:

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Bonus: To inspire more students to dream big and take actions to change the world, take a look at The Future Project - with “Dream Directors”, The Future Project is a national movement to reimagine education, one dream at a time.

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