Suraj Kapoor

Director of Product @WayUp, formerly @Lerer Hippeau. Technologist, Optimistic Contrarian.

Paying It Forward


Yesterday, a stranger helped me out. Why? In her own words, she believed in karma. After helping me, she insisted that I “pay it forward.” We’ve all seen online examples of strangers embracing other people’s needs and I’m wondering if, we all started to do just a bit extra, the effect and impact we would see.

I was en route to meet a friend in Park Slope. My phone stopped working just as I got out of the subway (suddenly shut down!). I couldn’t remember the name or the location of the restaurant we were meeting at, just that it was a BBQ place.

I started walking around looking for any BBQ restaurant but couldn’t find any. I was beginning to get flustered and, given I couldn’t get in touch with my friend nor did I have her number, I was wondering if she would leave having already waited 20 mins.

I explained my predicament to a stranger who, instead of ignoring me like the previous few, stopped and googled all the possible restaurants it could be and mapped out their locations. She spent 10 mins on her phone going through the various options. One of the restaurant names she mentioned sounded familiar, so I took a gamble and ran there, thanking her before I left. Luckily, it was the right place and I managed to meet my friend.

Without that strangers help, I would have probably not have found the restaurant at all.

Dinner was delicious, and we had leftovers that neither of us wanted, so with the stranger’s kindness front of mind, I volunteered to give the remaining food to a homeless person. I spent at least 20 mins trying to find someone in need around my area. If that women didn’t help me, I wouldn’t have put in the effort to help someone else.

Giving someone food became an obligation. Someone helped me, so I had to help someone else. Sadly, helping strangers seems like counterintuitive behaviour to the way members of a capitalistic society are programmed to act, yet there is something natural and inherently important about helping someone else for the sake of our own existence. The next time someone asks for my help I’ll do what I can, and ask them to pay it forward.