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We Can Change the World for the Better

Message Worth Repeating

Exponential Effort



There’s nothing new about the idea of performing good deeds in order to make this world a better place. Christ preached it 2,000 years before Oprah Winfrey’s Angel Network began spotlighting people who use their own lives to improve the lives of others. And now, a new movie called Pay It Forward gives this message a new twist.

The film, appropriately released in time for Thanksgiving, is based on Catherine Ryan Hyde’s recent novel of the same title. It focuses on a movement started by a youngster named Trevor McKinney.

The boy fulfills a school assignment to change the world for the better by helping three people. He tells each recipient that, instead of paying him back, they should help three others (pay it forward).

Trevor doesn’t simply perform random acts of kindness: His endeavors are premeditated. The idealistic youngster draws a pyramid of circles showing how rapidly his goodwill chain can spread around the world.

“You just look around. Until you see somebody who needs something,” he explains. One of the people Trevor helps is an elderly woman on his paper route whose garden needs attention. “It doesn’t even have to be that big....It might just seem big. Depending on who you do it for.”

Message Worth Repeating

Reviewers praised this novel, comparing it to Forrest Gump and Frank Capra’s classic films (Meet John Doe and It’s a Wonderful Life). The latter film is aired repeatedly between Thanksgiving and Christmas. Sometimes we need such repetition for us to get the message: Giving thanks and spreading goodwill are activities for all seasons.

A true story inspired Catherine Ryan Hyde to write this novel. Over 20 years ago her car caught on fire and some strangers risked their lives when they extinguished the flames. These Good Samaritans disappeared before she could thank them. Hyde decided to repay the favor by helping someone else and telling the recipient to pay it forward, too. Then the writer began wondering what kind of world we would have if the idea spread.

Christ tells us in Matthew’s Gospel that “whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me” (25:40). The message is restated a few verses later to emphasize that failure to do good works is a sin of omission: “[W]hat you did not do for one of these least ones, you did not do for me” (25:45).

Exponential Effort

In Pay It Forward, Trevor thinks his plan is doomed to failure because it doesn’t appear that the three people he helped will continue to spread the movement. But, as often happens in fiction, the positive results are revealed to us.

In real life, however, we may never know the whole story, how seemingly insignificant acts of kindness on our part have improved the lives of others. We seldom realize the ripple effect of our actions, both good and bad.

We can turn fiction into fact by doing nice things, both random and planned, and telling each recipient to pay it forward to three other people. We can even use this concept when we receive an invitation that says “no gifts” by performing good deeds.

During the Jubilee Year, many people have pledged time to our “1,000 Years of Peace.” Many pledges involve acts of kindness. You can still add yours by visiting our Web site ( or by mailing your pledges to Sisters United News, c/o Sister Mary Garke, 100 E. Eighth Street, Cincinnati, OH 45202.

If the kindness of others has had a positive impact on your life, tell them about it, even if the incidents happened years ago. Make sure they comprehend the significance of their actions. It’s never too late to show our gratitude and pay them back by paying it forward.M.J.D.



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