Each year on February 17, people all across America celebrate Random Acts of Kindness Day by performing good deeds for no particular reason for people they don’t even know. Why would they do this?

The idea behind Random Acts of Kindness Day is simply to encourage people to be kind to each other without any expectations or selfish motivations. By practicing random acts of kindness, people can learn how rewarding it is just to be kind to and do good things for others.

As you do good deeds, you will likely find that there are people who really appreciate the things you’ve done for them. In fact, they might be so appreciative that they want to return the favor and do something nice for you.

If this happens, you have a choice. You can accept a good deed in return, or you can ask them to pay it forward. When you ask someone to pay it forward, it simply means that you ask them to repay your kindness by doing a good deed for someone else. In this way, you can help others to keep spreading kindness to even more people.

Some people specifically promote the pay if forward concept. When they do a good deed for someone, they ask that person to pay it forward. Sometimes they even ask others to pay it forward to several other people.

For example, let’s say you do a good deed for someone. When they thank you, just say you’re only trying to make the world a better place. Then ask them if they want to help you spread the kindness.

If they do want to help, ask them to repay your kindness by paying it forward and doing good deeds for three other people. Ask them to pass along the same pay it forward message to those three people.

If those three people in turn help three other people, you will have just started a pay it forward kindness movement! Your one good deed will have quickly turned into 13 good deeds, and those good deeds will quickly multiply from there!

For many people, the pay it forward concept may be new. Believe it or not, though, it’s an idea that’s actually been around for thousands of years. No one knows for sure who first came up with the idea, but it’s been talked about and used for a long, long time.

For example, the pay it forward idea was a key part of the plot of Dyskolos (“The Grouch”), an ancient Greek play by Menander from 317 B.C.  Other famous people who have written or spoken about the concept include Benjamin Franklin, poet Ralph Waldo Emerson, author Robert A. Heinlein and legendary college football coach Woody Hayes. More recently, Catherine Ryan Hyde’s 2000 novel Pay It Forward was turned into a popular movie with the same title.


38 Join the Discussion

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  1. That’s a nice movie with Dr. Suess and things on it, especially about the teacher how she help her kids and the boy said he read 9,000,000 words. Like getting people to read and things like that.

    P.S. Me and my class and the teacher, Mrs. Lincicum, we get on Wonderopolis everyday. :)

    • Happy Friday, Victoria! Thanks for being the very first Wonder Friend to leave us a comment on today’s Wonder of the Day®! We think it’s great that you liked the video so much. You’re awesome for letting us know you and your classmates visit Wonderopolis every day…we think that ROCKS! :-)

  2. What’s up guys? It’s me. Okay, I have started wanting to do this, so “Pay It Forward”. Oh no, there he is again. Mr. Dr. Evil “Quotation Marks”. Well, anyway, this article was so cool someone has actually told me “Pay It Forward”. Ah, get out of here Dr.”Quotation Marks,” you know he gets in the way a lot. But, anyway, someone has told me that before and guess what I did? Come on, guess. I just stood there and had a blank face and said what? They told me what it meant and I said, “Well, won’t it be hard? They said it won’t, so I tried it and I got one person in those three days that I tried and I was just at least 6-7 yrs old. Well, I mean I got all three people one each day. Man, now I don’t know what to say. Oh yes, Mr. Dr. “Quotation Marks” is very, very mean. That is all. Austin signing off (not really signing just this is the end of the comment). So this is the proper way, I think. Bye.

    • Thanks for sharing how you learned about paying it forward, Austin! That silly Mr. Dr. Evil “Quotation Marks” is pretty persistent, isn’t he? :-)

    • Thank you for sharing that you thought today’s Wonder was interesting and that you loved the video, too, Kaitlyn! We appreciate your comment! :-)

    • Hello, Johnathan! We think it’s cool to “pay it forward,” too! We can’t wait to practice random acts of kindness today! :-)

  3. That is so interesting! I never knew that there was a holiday today! I wonder if Wonderopolis (you) participates in this? I think that they (you) should because you are so nice!
    P.S. Tomorrow’s wonder is most likely about hair! :-) :-P ;-) :-D

    • WOW! That is a GREAT group of smiley faces you left for us, Abby! Thank you! The Wonderopolis crew really likes “paying it forward,” not just today, but EVERY day! We like to think of special things to do that help make Wonderopolis and the whole world a better place for everyone! Simply smiling at someone and saying, “hello!” can be a GREAT random act of kindness…you never know who needs to share a smile! :-)

    • Thanks for sharing your thoughts about today’s Wonder of the Day®, Skyler! We’re happy to hear you think it’s neat! Have a WONDERful day! :-)

    • We feel the same way about today’s Wonder and video, Amoolya! It’s great to learn about ways to practice random acts of kindness and “pay it forward,” isn’t it? :-)

    • Hi, Trucker Buddy! We have been asking some of our friends here in Wonderopolis today to share some ways they have heard of people practicing random acts of kindness. Some people put money in parking meters for strangers, some people ask to pay for the coffee or the meal of the person behind them in line at the drive-through, and some people bake and take cookies to their neighbors! There are so many ways to make the world a better place…the possibilities to “pay it forward” are endless! :-)

    • We’re really sorry to hear about your uncle, Jeremiah, but we are super proud of you for feeling inspired to raise so much money for cancer research! You can do anything you set your mind to…everyone here in Wonderopolis believes in you! :-)

  4. I’VE GOT SOME questions for you guys:
    1 ? Do you pay the price?
    2 ? Can you give me some advice on paying the price?
    3 ? Is it your choice to get to choose the video or not?
    4 ? Can u tell me ?

    • Hi, Ashlyn! Those are GREAT questions! Everyone in Wonderopolis enjoys “paying it forward,” and we hope after visiting today’s Wonder, all of our awesome Wonder Friends will, too! There are many, simple ways to pay it forward! You can write a note to someone and tell them something you admire about them, then ask them to do the same thing to another person they admire. You can ask your friends to bring dog or cat food for a local animal shelter to your next birthday party instead of toys or gifts. You can even hold the door for someone, smile, and say, “I hope you have a WONDERful day today!” :-)

    • Hi, Paige! We hope you had a super great day today! Thanks for guessing that the next Wonder of the Day® is about bugs. We’ll all have to check back tomorrow to see if your guess is correct! :-)

  5. Dear wonderopolis, I think it is really nice of you to entertain us with the awesome videos on this cool website!!!! I get on it every day at school on our Kindle Fires!! I LOVE YOU, WONDEROPOLIS!!!! YOU ROCK!!!!!

    • Hello, Hailey! We think it’s so COOL that you visit Wonderopolis on your classroom Kindles! What a fun way for you and your classmates to explore the Wonders of the Day! Thanks for being such a WONDERful Wonder Friend! :-)

    • You’re welcome, Ashlyn! Thank YOU for being such an AMAZING Wonder Friend and checking back to learn some cool ways to “pay it forward!” :-)

  6. What was today’s wonder? Not to be mean, or what I know bullying is not a good thing, but it can be really hurtful and in my class, it’s so quiet nobody’s talking.

    • Hi, Crazy Gurl! Thanks so much for visiting this Wonder of the Day®! We have had many Wonder Friends suggest that there be a future Wonder about bullying. Be on the lookout for one in the near future! :-)

    • What a great point you make, Mr. Shure’s Class! We’re very proud of you for WONDERing about acts of kindness and helping others today! What a SUPER day to Wonder with you! We hope you have a terrific Tuesday! :)

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Have you ever wondered…

  • How can you pay it forward?
  • When is Random Acts of Kindness Day?
  • How long have people been paying it forward?

Wonder Gallery

hands holding onto wrists_shutterstock_55780216Vimeo Video

Try It Out

Ready to celebrate Random Acts of Kindness Day? There’s no better way to get the ball rolling than to pay it forward.

Grab a friend or family member and brainstorm some ways you could pay it forward. If you’re having trouble thinking of ideas, here are a few ideas of simple things you can do to get started:

  • Instead of just walking around the grocery store while your parents shop, hang out by the checkout lanes and help people carry their groceries to their car.
  • Take a look around your neighborhood. Is there trash that needs to be picked up? Maybe a neighbor’s yard needs to be raked? There are many ways to make the world around you a better place with simple good deeds.
  • Is there a nursing home or an assisted living center near where you live? Go for a visit and ask if you can spend some time reading to the residents who might not get many visitors. You might be surprised by how much just a little time means to someone!

Remember: kindness can be contagious. For more ideas, read inspirational stories online at helpothers.org!

Have some of your own creative ideas to pay it forward? If so, share them with us and the rest of your Wonder Friends. Email us your ideas or post them on Facebook. We can’t wait to read what you come up with!


Still Wondering

After studying about Martin Luther King, Jr. and what he believed in, children can use ReadWriteThink’s Living the Dream: 100 Acts of Kindness lesson to brainstorm examples of kind acts they could do and discuss how to report acts of kindness they witness.

Building a generation that is altruistic is done one child at a time. Join this Thinkfinity Community discussion to share ideas for ways you help children develop a caring attitude for others.


Wonder What’s Next?

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