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Pay It Forward

Christine, my friend of a million years, recently posted an anecdote on her Facebook page.
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It involved a stranger committing a “random act of kindness”. Christine described the episode and then urged her Facebook friends to to the same and “pay it forward”.

When I think about the phrase “pay it forward”, I remember the movie of the same name. A teacher, played by the always amazing Kevin Spacey, challenges his classroom of junior high students to conduct a social experiment–find a simple way to make the world a better place. One student, played by Haley Joel Osment (“I-see-dead-people” kid, from “The Sixth Sense”) decides to seek out three strangers and perform a good deed for each. The only caveat to each of the benefiting strangers: they must pay this good deed “forward” to some other unsuspecting stranger. It is supposed to be a lesson in sociology, but the movie does not turn out as the viewer may suspect.

I was reminded of Christine’s Facebook post when a young woman and her child called out to me at the Park and Ride by the Tempe Light Rail. She and her daughter had two tickets to the Light Rail that they would not be using; would we like to use them? After we accepted them, and I thanked her profusely, I explained to Daniel that something special had just happened. I pointed out how that lady went out of her way to do something nice for someone she didn’t even know and that we were the lucky ones. As he took it all in, I asked Daniel how he thought the world would be if more people were that thoughtful.

“Maybe we’d have less violence in the world,” was his wise response.

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We spent the beautiful, sunny Sunday walking around the Oktoberfest grounds, listening to the live bands, watching the weinerdog races and riding the amusements. Daniel and I had a blast riding the swings, and the Pharoh’s Fury , the large ship that rocks back and forth and I even rode the ferris wheel with him, despite my fear of heights.

Daniel wanted to go on one last ride, until he found out that he only had two tickets and each ride required at least three tickets. Daniel knew we needed to purchase some more. Instead, he stopped and turned to me, two tickets in his hand and said, “Pay it forward?”

I smiled and nodded.

He approached a young girl, her younger brother and their mother. Without hesitation, he lifted the tickets and said, “I’d like to give these to you.” To her disbelief, he handed her the two tickets and smiled.

She glanced up at her mother, who smiled and nodded and looked at me knowingly.

As they walked away, Daniel turned around and called after them: “Don’t forget to pay it forward!”

I can’t wait to tell Christine.


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