It’s easy to be cynical in this day and age. Getting mired in politics, economic woes, prejudices, the environment…any number of issues can weigh on us. We humans are fascinating creatures and our emotional buttons can very easily be pushed, turning us to anger, fear and doubt. Fortunately, we can also be impressed upon in beautiful, extraordinary ways, and those impressions leave powerful impacts upon us.
Many studies suggest that negativity bias is prevalent in human beings: that is, the notion that events, circumstances or emotions of a negative nature have a greater impact on our psychological state than positive ones. Some studies show, however, that in terms of recalling memories, humans are far more likely to recall positive ones than negative ones. This is called the Fading Affect Bias, or FAB. (The joke is that this is why women have more than one child.)
FAB may be responsible for ideas such as the pay it forward movement, in which positivity is spread by doing good deeds for others without expecting anything in return, but in hopes -and sometimes, expectations- that the person you’re helping will pass along the positive experience to another person. Paying it forward happens in ways small and large: in the case of a waitress at a New York restaurant, a tip that was well over the usual 20%.
It was almost 7000%.
A customer left this waitress with a $3000 tip on a $43 tab, and wrote on the back of his receipt a few requirements: one of them was to go to ReesSpechtLife.com to learn about the movement and continue to pay it forward. ReesSpecht Life is a foundation that started with a horrible accident: the Specht family lost their 22-month old son, Rees, when he drowned in a backyard pond. Instead of being fueled by the negativity of the event, his parents decided to honor his life by starting a foundation dedicated to paying it forward and “cultivating kindness”.
The waitress shared the story with the foundation and, much to her surprise, Richard Specht, Rees’ father, recognized the handwriting on the back of the receipt. The man who’d written the note was a former student of Specht’s, from ten years before. He was so inspired by his former teacher’s experience that he paid it forward in a huge way. Richard Specht was shocked and honored. “To think that someone I had a decade ago would honor my little boy, or even remember his eighth-grade science teacher in such a way, blows me away,” Specht said.
You don’t have to leave a stranger a few thousand dollar tip to pay it forward, though. Something as simple as paying for the coffee for the customer in line behind you can be just as impactful to the person you’re giving it to.