The expression “pay it forward” is used to describe the concept of asking that a good turn be repaid by having it done to others instead.
The concept was rediscovered and described by Benjamin Franklin, in a letter to Benjamin Webb dated April 22, 1784:
I do not pretend to give such a Sum; I only lend it to you. When you […] meet with another honest Man in similar Distress, you must pay me by lending this Sum to him; enjoining him to discharge the Debt by a like operation, when he shall be able, and shall meet with another opportunity. I hope it may thus go thro’ many hands, before it meets with a Knave that will stop its Progress. This is a trick of mine for doing a deal of good with a little money.
Ralph Waldo Emerson, in his 1841 essay Compensation, wrote: “In the order of nature we cannot render benefits to those from whom we receive them, or only seldom. But the benefit we receive must be rendered again, line for line, deed for deed, cent for cent, to somebody.”
In 1916, Lily Hardy Hammond wrote, “You don’t pay love back; you pay it forward.”
— Wikipedia on Pay it forward
2011.08.10 Wednesday ACHK