Pay It Forward

In 2000, a movie called “Pay It Forward” came about. In it, a social studies teacher gives his second-grade students a task for extra credt: come up with an idea to make the world a better place. The main character, a student, comes up with the idea he calls paying forward. Person A does three favors, for Persons B, C, and D. Then each of these people does three favors for three different people, so after just two tiers of this idea, twelve people have had their life made better in some way. The favors are to be done unasked and without any expectation or return: the person helped must simply pay it forward as well.

In the movie, the student starts his idea by taking a vagrant home and lets him clean up and get food. The child explains the PIF idea to him. The vagrant then learns that the child’s mother takes a taxi to work every day because her truck is broken down. The vagrant pays forward by repairing the truck. The vagrant noves on, and the idea spreads as he does his remaining favors. (Do watch the movie some time, the whole thing is wonderful, even if it is a bit long.)

I first saw the movie when I was a typical teenager didn’t fully care about the rest of the movie, but I was taken with the idea of PIF. I’ve lived my life trying to do for others without a (spoken) thought for myself. (I still always hoped karma would work out for me and only good would come to me, which it mostly has.)

I never really give at my own expense, which some may see as selfish (preposterous, absolute poppycock). I give of my own good fortune.
Shortly after I started working at my current place of employment, a coworker’s car broke down. While I can’t exactly pay it forward by repairing her vehicle, I did try to help her find a car. My husband and I had just purchased a new used car. I gave her the card of the salesman and helped her look for other places that assist people with less than acceptable credit. I also learned that she actually only lived a block away. She had her shift switched to match mine and I started driving her to work.

Yesterday, as we were heading to the car, she says to me, “You know, Amanda, I was cooking until nine o’clock last night.” She had told me the night before that she was planning to cook a lot of food, and she got home around 5:30. I ask her why it took so long. “I’ve only got one pot to cook in!” She sounded far to happy saying that, but then again she ALWAYS sounds happy.

“Funny you should say that,” I say, “My mother just bought me a new cookware set for my birthday, and it’s still sitting in the box because I don’t have any room to store the OLD pots and pans. We’ll stop off at my place first and pick them up.” Seeing someone who’s always happy turn truly happy is such a pleasing sight.

I explained to her that all the pans were scratched and dented, old hand-me downs, and so on. When I moved to Chicago in 2002 my mother bought me two new non-stick pans. They were stolen by a dormmate six months in (along with my razor, strangly) and I inherited her crappy pans. The rest of the pans were the old ones my mother had before she bought herself a new set (the same as she bought me now). The pans were given when my husband and I moved in together in Toledo in 2004.

“Oh Amanda, does it look like any of that matters? Thank you so much!”

Then I explained Pay It Forward to her, hoping she’d pay it forward in the future.

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