Today, the strangest thing happened to me. On refilling the car with gas, I was told by the attendant that someone has already paid for my gas. On further inquiry, I learned that he anonymous benefactor had left a thousand dollars at the station, with an earmark towards future transactions of other people. Upon filling my tank, I told the next guy the same, and, indeed, the next hour was free for the patrons of that BP station.
This incident reminded me of the amazing movie, Pay it Forward. In this movie, a young boy devises a charitable pyramid scheme, in which one person helps three people in a significant way—significant in the way that, it’s very hard for you to do. The boy lets a homeless man sleep in his house while he gives him the little savings he has, “enough for me to buy a shirt and pants”, so he can get a job. Long story short, the favors the boy does snowball without his knowledge, and he becomes a national hero. But, in the last act of kindness he had to perform, he tries to help a classmate under attack, and he gets stabbed to death.
After this movie was released, a fever of kindness swept the whole world, briefly. I feel it did not go far enough. I wish to see another pay it forward. Of course, something the likes of a pay it forward fever is directly against human behavior, more strange than charity. I first learned about the phenomenon back when I was in fourth grade, and didn’t understand it until I was in ninth. My father’s cynicism for the world helped in that respect.
But now I’d like to see a subtler version of the original. This subtler pay it forward would be the sort of altruism you’d give an old man mowing his lawn in the midday sun, the sort of altruism you’d give a friend doing yard work. Heck, go to three people’s houses and ask if they need help. Maybe you know how to fix something they don’t. you’d be their angel.
Then, when asked what they need to do to make it even, simply say, “Pay it forward”.