Daily Archives: February 16, 2007

Pay It Forward


I did it to myself.

Pay It Forward was on TV today, and I watched it. I watched it, knowing full well that by the end of it, I would be crying into the couch pillows and casting around for something to rid me of the squeezing ache of overwrought emotion in my chest*. I’m such a sucker.

I remember seeing this movie in the theater. I wasn’t the only one in need of a Kleenex and a hug; there were people all around me wearing the same thoughtful and exhausted expression as we shuffled, en masse, out to the popcorn-scented lobby. The reason? I think the concept behind Pay It Forward touches us all in some elemental place, the place where many of us have buried our first delicate ideals, our hopes for making a difference, our conviction that people really could be kinder to each other, after all.

When he receives a school assignment to change the world, Trevor hits upon the idea for Pay It Forward. He’ll do three good deeds for three different people, who, upon receiving the favor, will pay it forward instead of back, doing acts of service for three new people, who will each reach out to help three other people, setting off a chain reaction of people helping people for no other reason than to pass on the kindness they have received themselves. In the movie, a reporter stumbles across the story when his own car is demolished in an accident and a man walking by gives him the keys to a new one. What could have prompted such an extravagant and unusual gesture from a complete stranger?

Determined to find the answer to that question, the reporter hounds the man for the story behind the deed. As he traces back along the line of benefactors in search of the origins of the Pay It Forward movement, we discover that lives have been saved, paths changed, and wounds healed by the simple concept of goodness passed from person to person.

This isn’t a new idea.

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God. II Corinthians 1:3-4

Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. I John 4:11

Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. Ephesians 4:32

Perhaps that’s why this movie touches me so deeply. As a Christian, I should already be a big believer in Pay It Forward. After all, I’ve received hope, and a future, and a family. Underneath everything else that happens in my life (and believe me, there is ugliness, fear, and heartache to spare alongside the bounty of my blessings) is a joy that is absolutely untouchable. I know where home is, and nothing can stop me from getting there.

With such an abundance of wealth, how can I possibly keep it to myself?

I can’t.

So today, I’ll share my hope.

Maybe tomorrow I’ll share my chocolate.

*Chocolate functions tolerably well in this regard.