Pay It Forward Movement Rolls On With #AJO

I’ve been following the rise of the Pay it Forward movement, a worldwide effort by do-gooders to help others. It often helps the needy, but not always. Sometimes it’s just a stranger helping the person behind them by buying them coffee or paying a toll.

Some companies, like Starbucks, have sought to formalize the effort–at least in Great Britain–with a program called Suspended Coffee.

I’m fascinated by pay it forward because it’s individual-driven. This isn’t about the cashier asking customers to donate a dollar, or to drop their spare change in a donation box. While businesses have partnered with forwarders to help them accomplish their good deed, it begins with the person.

Take the latest example of pay it forward that is sweeping the world with the hashtag #AJO.

The day before she died, Pennsylvania teenager Alyssa O’Neill asked her parents if they could go to Starbucks for pumpkin spiced lattes the next day. They never made it. The 18-year old died of an epileptic seizure on September 4th.

After Alyssa’s funeral, her parents, Jason and Sarah, went to Starbucks for the pumpkin spiced latte Alyssa wanted. But they also paid it forward by buying 40 additional lattes, which they handed out to strangers. Each drink had the hashtag #AJO, Alyssa’s initials, written in purple marker on the cup.

When Jason and Sarah told the Starbucks manager what they were doing, he offered to donate all the drinks.

Thanks to social media, paying it forward with the #AJO hashtag has spread around the world and has gone well beyond coffee. Now you can see #AJO on everything from a layaway slip a stranger has paid off in full to tickets purchased by a fellow moviegoer. People as far away as Australia have used paid it forward with the #AJO hashtag.

I view pay it forward as an extension of the popular buy one, give one model made famous by companies such as Tom’s Shoes and Warby Parker. But this movement is being led by everyday Tom’s (and Tammy’s) from every walk of life. Is paying it forward a fad, or the beginning of a real trend? Only time will tell.

You can learn more about #AJO on the Facebook page AJO Forever in Our Hearts.

Are you ready to pay it forward? Let us know in the comments how you plan to pay it forward today!