A few weeks ago, I started seeing tweets of monolithic proportions with the hash tag #pibTO. (For my friends who aren’t familiar with either Twitter or hash tag <gasp> — you know who you are — look it up!). Pay It Backward Toronto, or #pibTO in Twitter speak, was an event being put on by Daily Challenge, a local social network for do-gooders. The idea was to show up at Second Cup on Queen and John Streets and buy a drink for the person – wait for it – in line behind you! The best part? 100% of the proceeds would benefit Sick Kids Hospital. All kinds of goodness!
What is Pay It Backward day, you ask? On an early Wednesday morning in December 2007, a woman (natch) at a Starbucks’ drive-thru in Seattle offered to buy the drink for the customer in line behind her, leaving with it just a simple wish of “happy holidays”. From this first random act of kindness at 8:00am on Wednesday began a chain of 489 more until 8:00am the next morning. Stranger after stranger did their part to spread the kindness in the drive-thru and the lobby. Together, they set the unofficial “Pay It Backward” world record of 490 acts of kindness done within a 24 hour period.
Fast forward to April 4, 2009. The Daily Challenge team, with help from Toronto’s social media world, decided that our fair city could easily break that record.
Toronto had torrential downpours the night before the event – as a matter of fact, we broke a 60 year-old rain record — and after the downpour came 70 km/h winds. I thought no way are people going to go. But at around 2pm when I finally made it to Second Cup, 244 other people had already shown. Sweet! The buzz in the air was palpable. I signed up for my number, got in line, chatted with the people around me, got a medium Earl Grey tea from the very kind person in front of me, bought the very kind person behind me a medium coffee, chatted with my fellow Twits, gave props to the organizers and headed off.
When I happened by about two hours later, the #pibTO line was even longer and everyone was anticipating that the record was about to be broken. I was at home about 20 minutes later and saw “the” tweet — Toronto had done it! We had officially crossed the 600 person mark and had broken the world-record for coffee acts of kindness. Awesome!
I’m so damn proud to have been part of something as cool as Pay It Backward day! Not only did I get to buy something for a complete stranger – which I realized I’d never actually done before – but got to do something that would greatly benefit an amazing organization like Sick Kids Hospital.
Everyone knows how much I’m in love with Toronto. The spirit in this city is absolutely unyielding. Its oft-mocked moniker of “Toronto the Good” may make some people cringe, but in my opinion, it’s never been more apt than this weekend. Swoon!
See the rest of my photos from Pay It Backward Toronto here.