Will you Pay it Forward in a Happy Henley this April?


The Henley Standard recently reported on the Happy Henley campaign, which will give the town its own Pay It Forward Day on Friday 27 April this year.

Er… remind me what Pay It Forward Day is

The global Pay It Forward movement was started in 2007 by Australian Blake Beattie after seeing the film Pay It Forward (based on the novel of the same name by Catherine Ryan Hyde).

In the book, a young boy does three good deeds, and all he asks of the people he helps is that they ‘pass it on’ by doing a good deed for three other people.

So, on Pay It Forward Day, the idea is that people do good deeds for others without asking for anything in return. Instead, they should simply ask the person they’ve helped to ‘pay it forward’ by doing a good deed for someone else.

(There’s no need to worry that the lucky people you approach will think you’ve gone totally bonkers, as you can hand them a Pay It Forward card that explains what’s going on!)

The UK has had its own Pay It Forward Day since 2011. Pay It Forward UK Ltd is our official campaign ambassador, and the company has plenty of information and ideas for taking part (whether as an adult, child, or even a whole school) on its website. And you don’t have to wait until 27 April, by the way.

So is Henley ready to be Happy?

Well, let’s hope so! I thought it was especially cheering to read about plans for Happy Henley after a rather unsettling poll in the Henley Standard a few years ago showed that an astonishing 25 per cent of readers wouldn’t ‘do a good turn to make someone else’s day’.

Perhaps I was alone in my surprise at those results. Yes, I read a lot of Disney-princess cloud-cuckoo-land fairy tale nonsense to my five-year-old, but I do still consider myself to have a reasonable grip on reality. Of course Henley isn’t a magical land of rainbows and philanthropic princesses, but I did still think that more than three-quarters of us would do a good turn to make someone else’s day (or – and isn’t this the important point? – at least say that they would!)

Note that there was no suggestion that this hypothetical good turn would disadvantage the doer in any way. As the proud owner of a degree in Disney psychology, I know that good people (even kind, beautiful princesses) can be selfish sometimes. They may choose the path of least resistance and don’t always go out of their way to do a good turn if there’s an easier option. But nothing in the question posed by the Henley Standard implied that anyone would be even mildly inconvenienced by the suggested good deed. And people still said they wouldn’t do it.

Time for another poll?

If I’d been writing this blog when the results of that poll came out, I would probably have asked you, dear reader: Would you do a good turn to make someone else’s day? Are you surprised that a significant proportion of people said they wouldn’t?

Writing it now, I want to ask you a question that is rather more pertinent in light of the Happy Henley campaign: Do you think the results would be any different if the Henley Standard repeated the same poll today?

Perhaps we should ask the paper to do so when Happy Henley is fully up and running and has had a proper chance to inspire us.

In the meantime, Happy Henley will produce Pay It Forward stickers, posters and cards that people who take part on 27 April can pass on to one another. Ooh, it sounds a bit like a secret society! – except we don’t want it to be a secret. Tell everyone you know!

Become a Happy Henley ambassador

Hopefully you’re now thinking that this is something you’d like to be involved in. So, put the date in your diary (Friday 27 April 2018) and await further instructions: I’ll update you as soon as I know more.

And, better still, you can put yourself forward as a Happy Henley ambassador by emailing suzannemorley@hotmail.com.


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