Pay it Forward

Recently my wife brought home a movie staring Haley Joel Osment (A.I.), Kevin Spacey (The Negotiator, Usual Suspects), and Helen Hunt (Twister, As Good As It Gets) called Pay it Forward from our local library. The premise of the movie was quite interesting. In a nutshell, Kevin Spacey plays a social studies school teacher that gives his class an assignment. The assignment is to think up an idea that could change the world around you. One of his students, played by Haley Joel Osment, comes up with a rather interesting and plausible idea.

His idea was to DO something for someone who was a complete stranger that would make a solid impact on their lives. After you had done that something, the person who had received the gift was to “Pay it Forward” (instead of paying it back) by doing something for 3 other people that would make an impact on their lives. As usual, a good movie like this was put on the do-not-promote list by someone in Hollywood and it never really received the exposure it should have. Maybe since the premise was a threat to the teat of the government welfare state, that in itself could have been a problem. For you see throughout this movie man’s ability to be good to one another without someone forcing him with a gun.

What I have found out is that the principle of giving rather than receiving pays the giver off many times just in the good feeling he receives by helping someone. Good feelings are good for your health and well being. I can’t count the times I have helped a stranded motorist, because of my mechanical abilities, and walked away feeling good about what I had done. I have always turned down monetary compensation and said to the recipient…”If you see someone stranded, try to help them.” A sort of “Pay it Forward” in itself.

You see, giving from the heart is what true welfare and charity is all about. On the individual level the act of giving is very beneficial to the giver as well as a person or family who is truly in need.

Though the movie stressed doing something that would be life changing for the individual receiving it, (and it surely was for the young reporter who saw his car get smashed and then was handed the keys and title to a brand new Jaguar), we as individuals would make the world a lot better around us by taking the incentive to help one another in little things as well as big things. Today, most of us don’t even KNOW our next-door neighbor’s name. Let’s first start by finding that out!

Take this instance… a friend of mine who received an unexpected astronomically high thousand dollar plus repair bill on her van had the bill anonymously paid by someone to the shop. I know that my friend was so shocked as well as the repair shop that just the shock alone had to pay something to the giver of the funds for the van repair. The giver in this instance knew about her situation (five children, and a family income of less than $15,000 a year at the most) and was willing to help the way he or she was best able. And whoever it was didn’t want anything in return from my friend. She was then able to transport her five children around again and go back to work. I feel that instead of giving so much to the ORGANIZED CHURCH in the way of “tithes” we should be spending more time giving to the unorganized church of this world and helping one another through our daily trials. Could you imagine if a stipulation was that my friend had to Pay it Forward to three people? Who knows where that could go.

You cannot force from someone at gunpoint a feeling of goodness about being robbed. Another plus is as givers we can CHOOSE who we want to bestow our giving on rather than someone else choosing for us a person that is unworthy of any gift because they refuse to work or try to support themselves on their own first.

What if we each went out this week and started our own Pay it Forward program. Do you realize that if just one person did it and the three beneficiaries did it that within no time everyone on Earth would benefit? I know the great feeling of giving because of Habitat for Humanities. I plumbed three of their projects in the place most folks call Washington State. To see a family benefit from my gift of labor was a good feeling. They were total strangers to me, yet, they were my fellow citizens of God’s Kingdom. They had a need I was able to fulfill and the gratitude they showed was enough to last until the next time.

How about it? Where can we start…how about the little old lady down the block on a fixed income that is having to have her lawn mowed for $50 a pop? Maybe if you could afford an hour a week and have a lawn mower and gas you could save her that $50 and consider putting $50 less in your ORGANIZED church coffers! Think about the possibilities…I can think of many. Another friend of mine has a sister who had just paid off her Chevy Blazer, decided to drop her collision insurance and the very next day rolled the Blazer and totalled it. Surely someone who is wealthy could totally flip her out by buying her something she could drive and she would Pay it Forward as part of the deal. The field is wide open for ideas.

I have heard of instances where people were bringing water, food, generators etc. down to Florida during the aftermath of all those hurricanes GIVING them away! I don’t know if it was true or not, but I suspect if we could look into the hearts of many folks who live in this country that you would find a stifled spirit of giving. After all, if 50% of what you earn is STOLEN to “give” to someone else, what is your incentive to give on your own?

I think the premise of the movie Pay It Forward was a very plausible kingdom principle that could work, for every act we do to help one another takes power from the Nanny State.

What do you think?

October 13, 2004