joGuest blogging for Growing Forward Services today is a colleague from the Mid-Columbia Leadership Development Association: Jo Haberstock. Jo sends me a leadership article monthly, and I liked her writing so much, I asked her to contribute this week to my blog. Thanks, Jo!

As I write this today, the temperature outside is near 100 degrees, and I can’t help but think of … donuts.

That’s right, donuts!  Well, maybe also an iced cherry mocha!  But mostly about donuts.

By now you’ve all probably heard about the great “pay it forward” chain that took place this month at Heav’nly Donuts in Amesbury, Massachusetts.  I’ll recap the highlights.  When a customer made her usual stop at the shop one day, she was told that the woman in the car ahead of her had paid for her drinks.  So the next day, she paid for the next customer’s order.  This apparently set off a wonderful chain of events, with a total of 55 customers, back-to-back, each paying for the next order.

Here’s another take on that theme – the “Pay it Forward” plan in Oregon to make tuition free at public universities.  The plan calls for students to attend public universities tuition free and loan free.  In exchange, students would have 3 percent deducted from their post-graduation paychecks for about a quarter-century.  The money would go into a fund to pay for future students.  The Pay It Forward concept was originated by the Economic Opportunity Institute, a nonprofit policy group in Seattle, and is based in part on a model used in Australia. There are still a number of issues to be worked out (including how to fund startup costs), but it is expected that approvals will be received to develop a pilot project for consideration by the 2015 Legislature.  Oregon is the first state to take a step toward the Pay-It-Forward model, with legislators in other states including Washington, Vermont, New York, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin also expressing interest in the idea.

Pretty neat ideas – “Pay it Forward” or, similarly, “Random Act of Kindness.”  To me, the concept is a great one, especially since there are days when I wonder if some people have forgotten what it’s like to let down their guard a little, to not be suspicious of the actions of others, and to simply be … nice.  To do something nice for someone else without having an ulterior motive, without expecting something in return.  To treat others the way we’d like to be treated.

Paying it forward demonstrates, reinforces and rewards positive behaviors.  All good things!  And we’ve probably all done something similar to the donut shop story, right?  Every so often I tell the barista at my favorite espresso place that I’ll pay for the drink(s) of the person in the vehicle behind me.  I’m long gone when the next car pulls up, so I know it will be a surprise when they find out their order is already paid for, and I hope it makes them smile and want to do something nice for someone else in the future.  And you know what?  I always find myself feeling happier and more optimistic when I pay it forward.  Of course it also puts a smile on my face when I’m told that someone else has paid for my drink – but I don’t expect that to happen.  That’s what makes me feel special when it does happen.

A small act of kindness can make a big difference.  For more inspiration (if you need it!), check out this video online.

Pay it Forward … Random Acts of Kindness … whatever the term, let’s keep the concept going!

Jo Haberstok is a communications and marketing consultant, technical writer and editor and a quality champion.  Currently Vice Chair of the Columbia Basin Section of ASQ, she has served as a regional and national judge for ASQ’s International Team Excellence Awards program and as an examiner for the Washington State Quality Awards program.  She has presented educational and poster sessions at several national conferences.  Jo’s articles on teamwork, training and recognition have been published in the Journal for Quality and Participation, AQP Report and the MCLDA and other business newsletters.