“We can’t change the big things but we can change the small things by looking out for each other, by giving each other a break,” says UL counsellor Michael O’Mahony.
He is speaking about a Limerick initiative to pay it forward inspired by the movie of the same name. The concept is simple: when someone does you a favour, instead of paying them back you pay it forward to another person. If people continue on paying it forward, a ripple effect is created with the possibilities for positive change infinite.
Michael and some of his friends came up with the idea over lunch. “We were talking amongst ourselves saying: burn the bondholders, there’s no job opportunities for young people. The place was an awful state really and then we thought, hang on we’ll talk ourselves into depression, we’ll drive ourselves mad.”
This thought gave Michael and his friends the spark of inspiration to try and do something small and simple that could all the same have far-reaching consequences. So, Pay It Forward Limerick was born.
“There’s things we can’t do, but the bottom line is if a person was in trouble you would help them out on a personal level. What’s really good about people is that if you were stuck, people would help you out,” said Michael.
Working with no budget and relying solely on the kindness of people willing to give up their time and expertise, they set up a web site (www.piflimerick.com) to log people’s random acts of kindness.
Michael is of the belief that life does not have to be a zero sum game; for someone to win, another person does not have to lose. “Be conscious of the other guy sitting in the bus or on the train or sitting in the traffic and remember they’re not the enemy. I might be frustrated with all that’s going on and feel powerless but the other person is not out to get me.
“We can get ourselves into this space where we become very aggressive towards one another but we don’t need to be doing that. We can cut each other a bit of slack, if we see someone stuck, give them a hand out.
“So we set up the web site and invited people to put stories up on the web site of when somebody did something for them.”
This is not, however, an opportunity for people to brag about how wonderful they are although the positive feelings associated with helping another human being is a large part of the initiative.
“It’s not an ego thing, we don’t want people e-mailing in saying I was brilliant, I did this. There are fabulous people doing fabulous things.
“We heard incredible things were happening; one lady was walking to school with her kids after her car broke down during the recent snow and a neighbour pulled up and offered to bring them to school and call the garage. That kind of thing is happening ongoing.
“Most of it isn’t highlighted, but what we’re saying is if we can highlight it then it will encourage people to do more of it.”
The Gleneagle Hotel are offering a weekend stay for two at the hotel for the person who has their pay it forward Limerick story chosen and verified.
Pay It Forward Limerick runs from February 1 to St Patrick’s Day but don’t give up then because the positive effects can go on all year.