Pay it Forward

Believe in human nature or not!

A few years back I saw a movie with Kevin Spacy, Helen Hunt and Haley Joel Osment, “Pay it Forward”. The story of a social studies teacher who gives an assignment to his junior high school class to think of an idea to change the world for the better, then put it into action. When one young student creates a plan for “paying forward” favors, he sets in motion a wave of human kindness which went nation wise. There was one main emotion which did lead these actions but also was produced or given back – love or/and compassion. Can this happen in real life?

Both psychologically and scientifically has been proven that positive emotions affect our health in a very positive way was well. Positive emotions release healthy hormones into our body and not only; the unhealthy release of cortisol and stress related hormones is lower as well. The most important emotions are gratitude, peace, joy, hope, and love. This external boost of positivity also creates neuro-pathways in the brain that are positive. This means that we are able to affect on the biological part of our brain and create a source of positivity which is supported externally as much as internally. Behavioral psychologists retain that even if aggressivity might be considered part of human nature, meaning that it is imprinted in our brain because of our ancestors or as part of human nature, a non aggressive behavior or approach can be taught. What would happen in the world if there would be more love and less aggressiveness?

The teacher on the movie says: “If you could help change the world, would you? What does the world mean to you? How often do you think about things that happen outside of this town? Do you watch the news? We are not global thinkers yet. What does the world expect of us? What if the world is just a big disappointment? Unless, you take the things that you don’t like about this world and flip them upside down. How about, is possible? The realm of possibility, exists where? In each of you. So, you can surprise us. It’s up to you. Or you can sit back and let it be. Make an attempt to interact with the world.” And the kid gave his idea: “Person A, is me and I help three people in doing something that they cannot do by themselves.” There was one condition, each person who was helped by the kid had to do the same thing with other 3 people, so there would be 9 people helped. And so on, each person with 3 people, and then other 3, and 3 more… A whole network of people helping one another.

In this world is so easy to be skeptic and cynic. It is bad but also the media is playing a big role in reinforcing the bad. Without even being aware we cause and attract negativity to ourselves. We fight, we hate, we break promises, and we disrespect nature, over think of our role as humans in this planet. This movie is one of those that stick with you and I have always wondered if this is something that can be applied in our everyday life. I was talking with a friend and colleague of mine – we have this new and fresh NGO, with no offices yet and we are trying really hard to get some money at least to cover costs for activities. I talked to her about the movie and the idea, if there is any chance to transform it into a project. The point where we are stuck is that we have not been able to find a way to measure the results and how to report it to the donor. However, what if we could start a campaign, spread the idea out there, and try to do it with no donors in order to not report to anyone. It needs money anyway.

But, what if it is possible? What if we can learn and teach how and to love? There is this video on youtube of a young man acting quit aggressively on a tram. You see all the people scared and panicking. All but an old lady, who took his hand on hers and just stayed like that sited near to him. The young man calmed down. That insignificant gesture of kindness might have saved his life and of other people who might have reacted the same way to him or with fear. Or for just ignoring him.

This is a project that we would love to see in practice really soon and maybe in this activity that you are organizing we might meet the right people or find the proper way to do it. Maybe this would be something to introduce in the scholastic curricula!

Saw the movie.

I remember the movie and how influential it was when it appeared some years ago, still is. Actually we were shown it during civic education class at school :slight_smile:

Are you involved in a similar initiative in your town in Albania? Which town do you come from by the way?

An example of community project I recently took part in - along similar reasoning, is a community food waste dinner: takes a resource many people have: food leftovers - and use it to cook new dinners for others who could learn and do the same. Not poor people, but people who can then go home and reuse their waste in some positive way instead of throwing it to the garbage. Pay it forward, indeed.