The Abacus — Paying it Forward
By Admin

June 15, 2010

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I met a gentleman about a week ago who was selling his home.  He had just finalized a long, grueling divorce.  I listened to his story as he gave me the details delivered with a sarcastic bitterness.  In the midst of this discussion he described how his neighbor had given him $5,000 for marriage counseling.  It is sad to say that those funds weren’t used for counseling but went towards legal fees.

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I was flabbergasted!  Do people still do acts of true altruism?  Our society has become more and more intrinsic and selfish.  We have become short-sighted and seekers of immediate satisfactions.  Why would someone in their right mind give their neighbor $5,000 for marriage counseling?  I perhaps could see a family member.  If a neighbor, then perhaps for something else besides counseling!

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So I put the idea to the test the very next morning.  My wife and I were having a breakfast alone at a local eatery.  In walk some friends of ours with their family.  Not our closest friends but my spouse and I both agree are good people.  I asked the waitress to bring me their check so that I could pay for their meal.  The waitress did and I paid it.

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What came afterward was the most revealing about me.  I found for days I was hoping that I would get a telephone call heaping mounds of praise and thanks upon me for my generosity.  At certain points, I was becoming irritated that I wasn’t getting my proper recognition for performing such a noble act.

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In the end, my act of purchasing my friends breakfast ended up not as act of true altruism.  It couldn’t be classified this way because I did in an attempt to gain recognition.  A true altruistic act is performed without thought of gaining recognition, fame, or any other consideration.

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Finally, as I considered what had transpired, I thought the reward belongs to the next person in line.  As my friends come in contact with someone in need, that person in need will receive my recognition.  Then hopefully this will create a chain of acts of goodwill and altruism.

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I charge you to go and do something charitable for someone.  Then let it be.  Don’t wait for the telephone to ring or run to the mailbox when the postman arrives.  Don’t be checking your email twenty times a day.  Just know that the person you help will remember what you did and will pay it forward.


  1. The world would be a must nicer and hapier place if people didn’t always expect so much in return for doing something nice.

  2. This is a WONDERFUL Article Bill!!! Thank you for writing it and also for expressing your honesty! That’s the part most people leave out and it’s probably the biggest lesson of the whole concept of paying it forward.

  3. Thanks Bill: as you are aware I try to be generous and charitable every day, even when it hurts. I regularly pick up lunch tabs for police, veterans and some Elders. I keep a group of Video guys under a roof so that they can enjoy some success and not have to worry about having a roof. Like you, I do get concerned that people don’t give a darn.

  4. Autie Scaggs

    Unfortunately, generosity and charity are almost a thing of the past. However there are still some wonderful people walking around.
    One of those people happens to be you!
    I’ve known you for a while now Bill, and you have always been a true friend a patriot, and one of the most kindhearted people I’ve ever known.
    On more than one occasion you have purchased a meal for me, and you know how hard the times are financially for me.
    Each day I pray for financial help and somehow I always make it either the county Veterans Administration pays the light bill or an anonymous gift takes place. This month is no different, with friends like you Bill today is a little brighter.