Opinion: Paying it forward

Kent Kirker is a junior education major and columnist for the Daily Kent Stater. Contact him at [email protected]

Kent Kirker

Recently, I have read or seen several different instances of people contributing good deeds to humanity. Many of us might know this as paying it forward. Is this really a new or recent phenomenon? I don’t believe so. I feel that our society needs to take a more accepting and gracious stance and attitude towards others. When this is done, we tend to be more humble and exhibit more positive traits including helping others. Helping others because we can or paying it forward is, in my opinion, vital to who we are as a people, how well we live our lives and how we better other lives.

This pay it forward mantra seems to be following me around lately. In class the other day we watched a clip from the movie “Pay It Forward.” The movie starring Kevin Spacey, a middle school social studies teacher named Mr. Simonet, who encourages his students — especially young Trevor, played by Haley Joel Osment — to find a way to change the world for an extra credit project. Trevor responds with his version of a pay-it-forward system in which he tries to help three people with nothing in return, except that those people then in turn pay it forward to three others. Our world, much like the one depicted in the movie, can have a very similar outcome if we learn how we can contribute to making the world a better place.

Recently in Dayton, an 8-year-old boy found $20 in a Cracker Barrel parking lot and decided to give it to a soldier having a meal with his family. He explained in a note how his father, who had been killed in action, was a soldier, and how he wished to literally pay it forward.

While watching this year’s Academy Awards, host Ellen DeGeneres tweeted a photo of her and a bunch of celebrities at the Oscars. Her goal was to get the picture to be the most retweeted tweet ever, a goal she achieved. Later on her live show, she announced that Samsung would donate $1 per retweet, of which there were more than 3 million at the time. Ellen stated she would give half to St. Jude Children’s Hospital and half to the Humane Society, thus paying it forward.

Growing up in scouting, I lived by the motto, “Do a good turn daily.” A scout is essentially encouraged to contribute to society and make it better on a daily basis. The program fortifies this mindset through the scout law. Five of the 12 points — trustworthy, helpful, friendly, kind, thrifty — apply directly to a pay-it-forward, giving-back attitude. Tons of service hours are committed each year in an effort to make our communities better.

What can we do to pay it forward in our own lives and in our own communities? What can we do to contribute to the betterment of society as a whole? I believe we can start by keeping ourselves informed and attuned to the world, its events and happenings. As George Washington said, “An uninformed populace is a populace in slavery.” Thomas Jefferson also said: “If a nation expects to be ignorant and free, it expects what never was and never will be.” How will we pay it forward? The search for truth and continuous work for the advancement of all humankind is a good start.