Paying It Forward

Does anyone remember the movie, “Pay It Forward,” with Helen Hunt, Kevin Spacey and Haley Joel Osment? Long story short, a seventh grade teacher (Kevin Spacey) tells his class on the first day of school that they will have a year-long assignment that involves interacting with the world in some way that will make positive change.

One of his students, Trevor (Haley Joel Osment), decides that he will conduct his own experiment by helping three people. His theory is that those three people will each go help three other people, and so on–therefore paying good deeds forward. Unbeknownst to him, the “pay it forward” movement takes off in a big way, affecting many people.

I think that the premise of that movie touched a chord in many people. I often hear of lines of people in fast food restaurants and coffee houses who pay for other peoples’ food and drinks–to the surprise and gratitude of others. Those of us who still pay tolls in the cash lane–how great is it when you hold out your dollar, only to hear that someone ahead of you already paid your toll? Now you can either keep the dollar or pay for someone else’s surprise. Either way, you win!

There was a story I loved in the Kindness Blog recently; a father took his young daughter to a fast food restaurant, bought her a kid’s meal and went into the bathroom. When he came out, his daughter was smiling, but her lunch was gone. When he asked her what happened, she told him that she had seen a homeless man outside who looked hungry, so she gave him her lunch.

The father began to speak sternly to her about approaching strangers and how wrong that was, when she stood up and interrupted him. She said, “Daddy, you told me once that if we can help people we should. That man was hungry, so I gave him my lunch. We have food at home; he probably doesn’t even have a home!” From the mouths of babes….

Each year there are many “secret Santas” who go to store layaway departments and paid the bills for other peoples’ presents. Then there are those who take the most direct route; they see a person in the cold with no shoes, and they buy them shoes. They see a child crying, and they ask him what is making him cry. Or the restaurant owner who noticed that a young woman was going through their trash bin after dark, looking for food. That night, she posted a sign on the bin that said, “Please come in and have a sandwich and a drink on us.”

There was an older woman who lived near Central Park in New York and noticed piles of sodden, dirty blankets near some park benches. She gathered them up, took them home and washed and dried them, then left the stack of clean, sweet-smelling blankets on a park bench for anyone to use.

There are amazing acts of kindness and love all around us. Even the smallest thing you can imagine can make a world of difference to someone. We can’t read another person’s heart, but often we can see his need. It’s true that horrific things are happening in the world right now–terrible things that scare us and will make us feel constantly afraid if we let them.

We can’t let these things pull our hearts down, not for a second. It may sound too simple; to help where we can, love from where we are, and give as we are able. But those things are powerful, and the positive influence they have can and do change lives and attitudes. These are the moments that lift and inspire us, that give us courage and allow us to see and to¬†be our better angels.

I love the whole idea and purpose of paying it forward. I say we keep it up, no matter what. When there is so much fear, anger and bad news around, we need more than ever to stay positive, be positive and to give positively from our hearts.



“Tomorrow-land” – A Personal Review

The Crankee Yankee and I went to see “Tomorrow-land” yesterday, starring George Clooney. Since we only go out to movies once in a blue moon, it’s always an adventure, especially when deciding what we want to see.

Of course, what we REALLY want is for each of us to go see the movie of our choice, then meet up afterwards. But as yesterday was our anniversary, the Crankee Yankee graciously gave up his choice of seeing the new “Mad Max” movie so that we could see “Tomorrow-land” together. Honestly, the clips I’d seen on TV just captivated me, so I really did want to see it. (My thanks, as always, to the Crankee Yankee’s generosity.)

Now when we were kids, movies were pretty straight forward: there was a newsreel, then a cartoon or two, and then the movie. Bing, bam, boom–that was it. You usually spent about .15 cents on a small bag of popcorn and a candy bar, and the movie itself was at most .50. You were in and out in under an hour and a half (the exception being “Gone With the Wind.” That sucker took hours!).

But these days, you watch nearly 30 minutes of movie trivia, ads, pleas for donations, and several clips from several movies. By the time that your inner kid is screaming “SHOW THE MOVIE ALREADY!” the real movie begins. Oh, and snacks, even modest ones like the Crankee Yankee and I had, one medium drink and small bag of popcorn; will cost more than your ticket. These days movie-going is an investment.

But back to the movie. In a few words, it was magical, breath-taking, illuminating, and had great special effects. Without spoiling it for anyone who hasn’t seen it, the premise is about how dreams can fuel new realities. It was perilously close to the current world pessimism in which we seem to be embroiled–it seems that most people have given up on peace, working together for a greater good, and striving to make life better for us all; a world community, if you will. This is how things stand in the beginning of the movie. One of the more memorable lines was something to the effect of how easy it is to succumb to inaction, despair, ennui, pessimism and hopelessness. How much harder it is to say, ‘no, wait a minute–we can change things here!‘ and then try to make that positive change happen.

Now if you feel I’m getting too hippy-dippy here, too bad. No matter how bad things get, I still have hope for this world and for this country. You may not like this movie yourself, but as for us old farts–we loved it. I walked out of it feeling hopeful, happy, and wonderfully inspired. Movies tend to have this effect on me–especially if it’s as hopeful as Tomorrow-land was.

But then, I’m the kind of person who sobs during the National Anthem, and especially at the sight of those few remaining glorious service men and women, now fragile with age, standing at attention on Veterans Day, Memorial Day and Independence Day.

And on this Memorial Day, I thank all who have served and all who still serve so diligently to keep our freedoms and way of life alive. God bless each and every one of them.

Back to the movie, I hope you see it and enjoy as much as I did, and that the message inspires you as it did for me.