The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

David Knepper

January 2, 2011

‘Pay It Forward’ in 2011; world will be a better place

“A life lived for others is the only life worth living.”

– Albert Einstein

Complaining has become almost second nature to many of us.

Shamefully, I must admit to finding myself trapped in discussions that, at best, could be characterized as redundant and superfluous. Or, simply, time squandered when I could be engaged in more fruitful, rewarding tasks that really count in the final scorecard of who we are and what we are all about as human beings.

But, there is hope that we can make a difference if we begin to focus or concentrate our energies on goals that we have control over. By doing so, we begin to focus on what matters most in life – keeping the spirit of Christmas alive throughout 2011.

I call it random acts of kindness by passing our love and generosity on to others who are going through tough spots – and you need not look any further than across your backyard fence. 

In 2000, Catherine Ryan Hyde’s novel “Pay It Forward” was published and adapted into a Warner Bros. film of the same name.

In both Hyde’s book and the movie “it” is described as an obligation to do three good deeds for others in repayment of a good deed that one receives. Such good deeds should be things that the other person cannot accomplish on his or her own.

In this way, the need to help one another can spread exponentially through society, creating a social movement with the goal of making the world a better place (Wikipedia).

The idea of the book has been championed in real life by the Pay It Forward Foundation, and focuses on bringing the concept forward to school-age children, parents and educators.

The simple idea of doing good works for others to repay the good that has happened to you is one that can easily be conveyed to children, and encourages them to be socially aware and take a role in making the world a better place. 

The main character of the book is a 12-year-old child, thus giving other children someone they can relate to – a youngster who did three good deeds for others in need.

In return, all that the child wanted was that they pass on the good deed to three other people and keep the cycle going.

The Pay It Forward Foundation is sponsoring a “Pay It Forward Day” on April 28. 

This is a worldwide movement that started in Australia and has rocketed around the world.

On this day, be extra vigilant to find a favor you can do for another person. Operating on the premise that we all have it in our power to help another, one individual truly can change the world. (www.payitforward

Just a few days before Christmas, when the last of the Christmas cards were draped over my son’s bedroom entrance, I was surprised to find what I thought was a customary Christmas card in my mailbox.

Who could it be from, since there was not a return address on the envelope or a signature on the “caring thoughts card”? 

To my amazement, inside was a monetary gift with this message: “I was recently blessed to have received an unexpected monetary gift. After some consideration, I decided instead … that I would spiritually give to someone I felt could possibly use this gift. Perhaps the enclosed could help in some small way. (The writer knew that my son was facing some health issues.) 

“I wish you the gift of faith, the blessings of love and the happiness of the New Year.”

It was signed “God Bless You All.” 

Our family still gets teary when we reread the letter. 

Truly, this act of kindness and love is an example of what is meant by “paying it forward.” 

Most assuredly, our family intends to make it our New Year’s resolution to pay forward three deeds in the same spirit as this “angel,” sent to us this Christmas season. 

One good deed might not seem like much. But if everyone did something good for someone else, like this “angel” who blessed our house this Christmas by their love and generosity, one can only imagine how far this, the cycle of generosity and kindness, could extend.  

Hopefully, one good deed will be an inspiration for another to help a neighbor, a fellow worker, or a complete stranger, to do the same. That is the idea behind the “pay it forward” movement, which is attempting to make a habit of showing kindness in some way each day. 

This act of charity even surprises ourselves when we give to another without expecting something in return.

Pay It Forward Day is a powerful reminder of the positive difference we all can make, regardless of our age, economic circumstance or social strata.

But why wait for the so-called right opportunity? Why not pay kindness forward every single day?

You will be enriched, and I know that someone’s life will be just a little bit brighter.

 “Be the change we want to see in the world.”

– Ghandi


David A. Knepper is president of Allegheny Development Group LLC and is currently the executive director of the Forest Hills Regional Alliance. He holds a doctorate in educational administration from Penn State. His column appears the first Sunday of each month.  

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