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American speaker asks school pupils to 'pay it forward'
HUNDREDS of pupils gathered on Wednesday lunchtime in Wycombe High School’s main hall to listen to a former American businessman speak passionately about random acts of kindness – a cause to which he is devoting his life.
Charley Johnson, a 32 year old from Utah, USA, is the president of ‘Pay it Forward’ and is visiting England to promote the foundation’s message of kind deeds as a force for good.
Mr Johnson has created a bracelet which can be given away to someone you have helped as a way to encourage them to help others.
"Pay it Forward is doing something nice for someone and asking for nothing in return," Mr Johnson explains.
"The only thing you are asking them in return is to do something nice for something else."
His association with the foundation only began recently.
Previously, together with his cousin he owned a successful business.
He acknowledges he had all the money and security he could ever wish for, yet was profoundly unhappy.
"It didn’t feel right that all I should be doing was making money by any means necessary.
"I did not want to wake up in the morning or go to work.
"I had to wipe away the tears."
The Utah native agonised for a couple of years over whether to quit his job before finally deciding last April to commit himself wholeheartedly to Pay it Forward.
He was inundated with job opportunities but couldn’t bring himself to sign the contract, instead immersing himself in his new role as president of PIF.
He admits the past 12 months have been challenging but has no regrets about quitting his lucrative job.
He said: "The past year has been the scariest year.
"I’ve experienced every feeling: no security, no idea what’s next, no hope for the future and thinking what have I just done, to now speaking to schools all over the globe."
"It just feels right that I left."
Mr Johnson was impressed by the High School and the attitude of its pupils.
He said: "It is an amazing school, like a huge community college campus and everyone seems nice.
"Hopefully the message sinks in but it seems like it does.
"All the girls wanted more bracelets and seemed to have smiles on their faces.
"With PIF if we can give these kids something good to do it’s just so much more powerful than getting up in front of them and saying don’t do this, don’t do that."
Sharon Cromie, the school’s headteacher, was delighted to welcome Mr Johnson to the school and thrilled with the big turnout for his talk.
She said: "As part of our curriculum and our offering we talk about kindness and citizenship and really doing the right thing so when we became aware this was an international movement we were very keen to be a part of it."
"This is lunchtime and the girls are here of their own volition so it speaks volumes that we had so many here interested."
Mr Johnson’s talk certainly seemed to have an impact on those in attendance.
Kike Oludemi, a pupil at the school, said: "I thought it was a really interesting topic, doing stuff for other people to spread goodness.
"His message was quite powerful and I thought it was quite a good one because there was no ulterior motive, like buy my book." "I think if more people catch on to this it could be quite a big thing."
Another pupil, Tigs Knowles, added: "I will hand out bracelets and I think everyone at the talk will because they understand and see how inspirational it is."
Mr Johnson feels PIF is a cause everyone can instantly become involved with.
He explains: "The big thing is a lot of people, when they say they want to get involved with something, are given a set plan of what they should do and are given a PDF.
"To get involved with us you just do what you feel is right.
"Do what you think is nice to the person you just crossed paths with.
"If you want to get involved you can do so immediately by making someone smile."
Mr Johnson will be speaking at Naphill & Walter's Ash Primary school nect week.
PIF are holding a series of flash mobs next Wednesday at 4pm to raise awareness for the foundation, with gatherings scheduled to take place in Trafalgar Square and outside Marks and Spencer in the Eden Centre.
If you want to find out more about Pay it Forward you can find videos and testimonials on their website, PIF experience.org