Magazine article The New American

Paying It Forward from Pittsburgh to Chicago

Magazine article The New American

Paying It Forward from Pittsburgh to Chicago

Article excerpt

The concept of "paying it forward"--doing a good deed while asking only that the person helped would in turn help someone else--provided the motivation for a Good Samaritan in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, to pay it all the way forward to Chicago, Illinois.

Around the beginning of April, the man from Pittsburgh (who wishes to remain anonymous) picked Chicago at random and posted a message on the Internet site Craigslist offering to help anyone in Chicago on the weekend of April 4-5. He wrote that he could assist with such things as groceries, giving a fide, or helping with house or yard work. The only thing he wanted in return was for the person helped to pay it forward by aiding someone in the future. After sifting through the replies, the man decided he could help four of the respondents, all of them strangers.

Armed with tools, a video camera, and some clothing he was planning to give to one of the parties needing help, the man made the long trek to Chicago. During the trip he received an e-mail on his cellphone from one more person requesting assistance; this brought his mission total to five. In an April 16 story, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette quoted the Good Samaritan as saying that he knew he was "taking a big risk" traveling to another city to meet complete strangers, yet he didn't let fear deter him.

His first mission on Saturday was to deliver an automobile battery to a man whose van needed a new one. Mission number two also involved a vehicle: a man had bought a truck on, of all places, Craigslist and needed a ride to Des Plaines, Illinois, to pick it up. The last mission on Saturday--the one received via cellphone--was to help someone remodel a bathroom, which included the twist that the remodeler was himself doing the work to help a friend.

Sunday began with mission number four: tearing down an old wooden swing set in a woman's yard. At this point the Pittsburgh Samaritan was on the receiving end of one of his own pay-it-forward efforts: the man who had needed the ride to his recently purchased truck showed up to assist with dismantling the swing set. …

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