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Catherine Ryan Hyde published Pay It Forward several years ago, watched as her book was made into a movie by the same title in 2000, and has since established a charitable foundation that promotes the basic principles espoused in her novel.

But her own Pay It Forward experience occurred almost 24 years ago. Ryan Hyde was living in Los Angeles in a "tough" neighbourhood, and late one night her car stalled on a ramp leading off from a freeway. Before she knew it, her car was filled with smoke and the engine was on fire. She then observed two men running toward her with a blanket. They quickly popped the car's hood and did what they could to extinguish the flames. At the same time, a fire truck appeared on the scene.

It all happened so fast that Ryan Hyde was unable to thank the two men, who disappeared into the night.

To this day she doesn't who they were. But at that same moment the Pay It Forward concept started to develop in her mind as Ryan Hyde realised she owed a huge debt of gratitude to someone. "It seemed like too much to do for a total stranger," she told Rotarians. "I was later told that we could have been killed. These two gentlemen probably saved my life, and they risked their own lives. And I don't even know who they are."

The Pay It Forward Movement is the real-life reaction to the release of my novel in early 2000, followed by the creation of the Pay It Forward Foundation, followed by the Warner Brothers movie. I didn't write the novel expecting a social movement, but it's certainly been exciting to watch it grow.


-Catherine Ryan Hyde

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