Paying it forward is about people. About people giving to make a positive difference in another person’s life. The concept is old, but lately it’s making a comeback worldwide, and thanks to the power of the internet it’s bringing big communities and cities together like never before. We all know that random acts of kindness can lead to multitudes of good karma, plus with the added benefits of bringing people closer together, helping the environment and making someone else’s day, what’s not to like!?
We decided to catch up with Samantha Molyneux who helps run a Facebook page dedicated to Paying It Forward. The page is Marrickville – Pay It Forward and it has brought together thousands of people in the Sydney area on this one notion of giving. Samantha puts the Pay It Forward concept in simple terms: “Kindness is free. Spread that shit everywhere.” The page has a few thousand members and some are quite generous with their offerings. From TV’s to clothing to food and anything and everything in between.
It’s a very simple principle. The idea is that if there’s something you have that you don’t use, were planning to throw away or even sell and you are happy to just give it to another person, then you pay that item, or in some cases we’ve found, skills, helpfulness and just general acts of kindness, forward. It’s just a way to help others who may not be able to source/afford items or will merely benefit from the help of those around them. It then has a ripple effect into the community, not only bringing people closer together, but it also helps the environment by stopping items going into landfill and fulfills the giver and receiver, knowing that they have helped or received a random act of kindness, in most cases, from a complete stranger.
Where did you get the inspiration from to set up the Pay It Forward – Marrickville page?
I’d seen it done in numerous communities in New Zealand but I wasn’t sure whether it would be logistically feasible in a place as large as Sydney. As an administrator on another community page, we found that people were offering goods for free on a regular basis anyway and when I presented the idea to the other administrators they were totally supportive of the initiative and helped me get it off the ground. Marrickville and the surrounding suburbs had proven their community spirit was strong so we were hopeful that it would work, however it’s success and what it has grown into has certainly exceeded all of our wildest expectations and is much more than simply giving away items.Who runs it with you and where are you all from?
There is myself and three other wonderful women. Sarah McGregor, Kathy Bader and Fi Robinson and we all have very different backgrounds. Fi was born in Sydney, is a mother of two, runs another community page of her own with 1600+ members, is a member of local schools P&C and has been an admin on the page where we all met for 4 years. Sarah, originally from Brisbane, has 3 children, helped get the page Kidsize Living Inner West off the ground which helps parents to share, sell, up-cycle babies, children’s and adults clothing and other goods and runs her own home-made delivery pie business. Kathy is also from Sydney, has 3 kids and is active in the inner west community on schools P&C, her son’s AFL team, co-chairs the Marrickville children’s festival and working with Women’s and Children’s Ministry within the Anglican Church. She is also an advocate and involved with women and children at risk. I’m from New Zealand, single, no children, work on a community based page and run my own health blog supporting women with PCOS. So, we are all SO different but this aids our work because it means we see all issues and situations from different perspectives. Ultimately though, we all have the same aim and intention and that is to strengthen our community, benefit the environment, and help those who could use it and when they need it, just brighten people’s day in general.
What’s the craziest thing that you’ve seen been given away?
Well, there have been a number of odd items. “Worm Wee” was on offer for people’s gardens, fish skin for anyone who wanted to feed it to their dogs because it’s full of nutrients and omega 3 and someone who over ordered crickets offered them up to any other reptile owners on the page. They have to be the top three, so far. I’m sure there will be more though. Believe it or not they were very popular and were snapped up quickly. It proves the age old saying, one man’s trash is another mans treasure. Everything is usable and helpful.
What’s the most generous Pay It Forward?
There’s too many to even know where to begin. We’ve had large garden sheds given away, a cubby house worth about $2,000, a woman with a 12 year old son who has a terminal illness that required a freezer to store community made meals in whilst she was undergoing treatment that initially started looking for a used one and in turn the whole group of members rallied together to buy her an entirely new one and created a meal roster. A local business recently gave away two family passes to the Easter show, an entire house was furnished for a family fleeing domestic violence, people collecting items to distribute to the homeless, collecting for those affected in Vanuatu, the list is seriously endless. We don’t allow large organised charities to promote/collect on our page, not because we don’t think they’re important but because our focus is to help the smaller, unsupported causes and just our local community in general. But ultimately, the most generous pay it forward we have is people’s general love and support for everyone. If anyone were ever in need, I can just about guarantee they would find some form of help from our page. We now have 3,500+ members so anything’s possible really.
Has there been any conflicts and how do you manage these?
Due to the generosity and how easily it can be taken advantage of we are quite strict regarding the activity on the page. Basically no negativity is accepted. The giver can give how they please with no questions asked. We ask that people try to balance the giving with receiving but it’s the kind of thing where at times we are in a position to give and in others we are more in need. It usually comes around eventually. We don’t hesitate to remove anyone that goes against the true intention of the page, and that’s positivity, kindness and good vibes. Generally, everyone is there for the greater good and that’s why it works so well.
There’s a lot of “Pay It Forward” pages for different communities. Many of them not as active as your page. Why do you think this page has flourished in the Marrickville community?
You know, I really don’t know! We had a great foundation to start with and that was our sister page Marrickville 2020 where all the PIF admin initially met and we found people were already regularly giving and had a large membership base so that’s how it began to flourish. The inner-west has proven it is full of incredibly generous people but our members spread much further afield so it’s not as simple as that. I think with an amazing team of admin who work very hard and with thousands of incredible members who fuel and drive the principle and ideal, it’s just working. Good rules, good people and good intentions, that’s why it works. I can’t speak for any other pages but we do work hard to maintain balance and communicate with our members regularly and make sure there is a solid understanding so there is no deviation from what it is we are doing and that keeps things on track.
What do you hope the community gets from the page?
We hope they find help, we hope they find kindness and we hope it inspires them to think about what they can do for other people not only on our page but in there lives in general. We have a motto “You can’t help everybody, but everybody can help somebody” and this idea spills over into our everyday lives. The community is stronger, the environment is better and we brighten people’s days in ways we don’t even know. The smallest thing can mean the world to someone and I believe this is the spirit and happiness the page brings to it’s members and that’s why they and we love it.
Any other Facebook Groups people should check out?
Oh, there’s heaps of incredible pages doing incredible things. Inner-west Freecycle who run on the same principle as we do, Maggie’s Rescue, The Mini Kitty Commune, the Cat Protection Society who work to help animal’s, Kidsize Living for parents, Marrickville History in Photos if you want to know the background and history of where you live, Facebook is an endless resource of wonder and good things! You just need to look and be invested in it.
What should people pay more attention to?
I think what all the admin would like is that people do see this as a movement and we would love to help people set these kinds of pages up all over Australia and even further. We would be more than happy to offer help and advice because anyone, anywhere is capable of doing this. You just need the right people and the internet. It’s as simple as that.
And ultimately, when and where ever you are, daily, weekly or just as often as you can, look out for the people around you. Help when someone is in need. Don’t shy away, don’t be quiet, speak up if you need too, go out of your way to lend a hand, think outside yourself and question how you can improve the lives of others for the better, even if it’s as simple as a smile. We really do underestimate the power of kindness and how the simplest of things can change someone’s life.
Kindness is free. Spread that shit everywhere.