Paying It Forward
Today is 11-11-11. Kind of freaky, huh? It’s also Veteran’s Day, the day set aside for our country to honor those individuals who have served our nation’s military. I am the daughter of an Air Force veteran, so this day has special meaning for me. But, thanks to a local television station—channel 11, of course—this day has an added purpose in Atlanta. Today thousands of people will gather in the Georgia Dome to try and build the largest chain of kindness. Made out of paper links, this chain will represent thousands of random acts of kindness performed by individuals throughout the past year. Kindness is something we need a little more of in this country, so I applaud the effort.
The whole idea came about as a result of a challenge to pay it forward issued by a young woman who lost her life while she innocently ate her lunch on her high school’s lawn. Rachel Scott was the first person killed at Columbine High School on April 20, 1999. Her acts of kindness and compassion, coupled with the contents of her six diaries, have become the foundation for one of the most extraordinary school programs in America. It’s called Rachel’s Challenge. If you haven’t seen the presentation, I would urge you to do so. According to writings found in her diaries after her tragic death, Rachel believed if one person can go out of their way to show compassion then it will start a chain reaction of the same. This theory put forth by a seventeen-year-old girl has inspired hundreds of thousands of people—many of them teens themselves—to pay it forward with a random act of kindness.
Seeking a way to honor their lost child and sister, Rachel’s family founded the Rachel’s Challenge Foundation “to inspire, equip and empower every person to create a permanent positive culture change in their school, business and community by starting a chain reaction of kindness and compassion.” The program was the catalyst to our local television station’s chain of kindness campaign. The paper chain is made of links representing random acts of kindness performed by individuals or groups. It will be interesting to see today just exactly how long the chain extends. But what will be more inspiring to me and others to see is whether this chain reaction will, as Rachel predicted, ignite a greater change.
Paying it forward is such a simple concept. It can be as easy as giving up a seat on the subway for an elderly patron or a pregnant woman. Or, buying a cup of coffee for the guy behind you in line at Dunkin Donuts who’s dressed in military fatigues. A woman gave me a coupon—40% off!—the other day when I was at the craft store buying a frame. I didn’t know her, but her random act saved me twenty bucks. 🙂 I’ve set the money aside for when the Salvation Army is out later this season. I’m spending this weekend editing an Eagle Scout write-up for young friend of my son’s. Do I have other things to do? Sure, but as I watched my own son receive such a distinguished honor last week, I had to do something to help another young man achieve his goal.
This holiday season offers us so many opportunities to pay it forward, but can we keep giving all year long? How are you going to pay it forward?