Inspiration can come from many places. For Shannon Leavitt of Pocatello, Idaho, it came from her son. Seven months before starting the program, Leavitt saw 10-year-old Kaden run out to help their elderly neighbor with her trash, and his good deed sparked a thought. She told Yahoo! Shine, “He ran outside and dragged her bag down her driveway. It made me so proud. I wondered, ‘What if we make this into something?’” She wanted to figure out a way to encourage others to perform their own acts of kindness.
Leavitt went out and had 200 business cards made. The front of the card asks people to “Pay it Forward,” and the back explains what the phrase means. It says, “Please do a good deed, whatever it may be. Then pass this card to that person and tell them to do the same thing … pay it forward.” She says that the cards may be new, but she has always believed in the importance of doing good deeds.
Her whole family is getting involved, her husband and other three children all carry the cards with them. Her husband even bought a round of golf balls for a mother and son while at the driving range. The children are also participating, like Leavitt’s son, Kaden, who carries the cards with him to school where his mom says, “He’ll hold the door open for students” and help teachers any way he can. Leavitt’s whole family is getting involved, and they hope others will be inspired to do something similar.
Leavitt says she helps others because of the joy it brings her. “I never expect anything in return—you have to give because it makes you feel good.” She earns $3.35 per hour waiting tables in a restaurant but never thinks twice before helping others. She once saw a teenager pushing his car down the road after running out of fuel, and she stopped to help him. She drove him to the gas station, paid for his gas, and drove him back to his car. She gave him one of the cards she had printed and went on her way. Helping others doesn’t necessarily mean spending money; we can all help by doing small deeds. Even just holding the door open or flashing someone a smile can improve their day.
Leavitt’s idea of giving people a card every time she helps them is her way of planting a seed that she hopes others will help her grow. While she can’t be sure the people who receive her cards to will pay it forward, she has seen at least one person do just that. “I was waiting tables, and these two guys were sitting at the bar, I paid for one round and handed them a card.” Fifteen minutes later, the two men paid for a family’s $115 bill. With her “Pay It Forward” attitude catching on, here’s hoping it spreads beyond Idaho.