We Can Change
the World for the Better
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
“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
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”
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
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 (pledgePeace.org)
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.