And then God said, "Pay it forward."
I heard a news report a couple of days ago about an Ohio teen who began an amazing quest to honor the memory of her beloved 89-year-old great-grandmother who recently passed away. She pledged to perform 89 random acts of kindness for total strangers over the next 18 months.
She began her crusade by paying the $5 bill for the customer behind her at a McDonald’s drive-thru. The woman cried tears of joy at her kindness. The teen repeated that deed a few days later and the act created a chain reaction of kindness at the drive-thru that day. Surprised by the satisfaction and happiness that she felt, the teen decided to “branch out” and donated items to the local homeless shelter, baked a cake for an elderly neighbor down the street, and volunteered at the Humane Society.
These acts, while commendable, are not unique. I recall the 2000 movie Pay It Forward. Young Trevor McKinney comes up with a plan to complete an assignment from his new social studies teacher, Mr. Simonet. The assignment: think of something to change the world and put it into action. He comes up with the idea of “paying it forward.” He does good deeds to three complete strangers for no reason other than the hope that they, in turn, will do good deeds to three other new people. The plan creates a ripple effect that serves to change the lives of an ever-widening circle of people.
Every now and then there is a news report similar to that of the Ohio teen. The results are always positive and uplifting and I am always temporarily inspired to “pay it forward” myself. But then I get distracted and life gets in the way, or whatever, and I forget about it until the next similar report.
Sacred Scripture tells us repeatedly to look out for one another and especially to look out for the needs of the poor and marginalized. We are told to be kind to one another. We are taught the Golden Rule: "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you" (Luke 6:31). Is that another way of saying “pay it forward”? I am thinking that God came up with this idea long before the writers of the above mentioned movie.
Could random acts of kindness really change the world? What would happen if every person on the planet did one unexpected, unsolicited act of kindness every day?