- Maybe some day I’ll have kids of my own. I hope so. If I do, they’ll probably ask what part I played in the movement that changed the world. [Catherine Ryan Hyde, Pay It Forward: A Novel (Simon & Schuster, 2000), chapter 1.]
Pay It Forward Day is a global initiative that exists to make a difference by creating a huge ripple of kindness felt across the world. [from the website for Pay It Forward Day]
Most people wish to leave something of value behind after they die. While we live, many of us wish to contribute something of value to the lives of people who surround us.
In teaching a class, doing scientific research, contributing to worthy causes, and in many other endeavors, we pay forward the good that we received. Altruism can benefit others not only now but also in the future. That is the essence of paying it forward.
The genesis of the term is in the idea that instead of paying someone back for a good deed, pay it forward by doing good for someone else. For example, grandparents may wish for their adult children to give to the next generation what they were given. This was idea behind Catherine Ryan Hyde’s novel Pay It Forward. Ms. Hyde has established the Pay It Forward Foundation, which continues to exist today. Its essence is kind acts to people, to animals and to the planet.
Unfortunately, the film was not well received, despite an excellent cast. Perhaps someone else will pay it forward by making another film.
- Sarah Knott, Mother Is a Verb: An Unconventional History (Sarah Crichton Books, 2019): “We have to contribute our own intellect and gifts, in order to look out for one another.”
- Theodore Rosengarten, All God’s Dangers: The Life of Nate Shaw (Alfred A. Knopf, 1974): “ . . . a man who could neither read nor write but who sensed that the substance of his own life, and a million other black lives like his, were the very fiber of the nation's history.”
Music: Composers, artists, and major works
The distinctive interplay of instruments in Iranian classical music for soloist and orchestra comes as close to expressing the idea of paying it forward as music can. The music is written in such a way that each instrument sounds thoroughly committed and involved, not only to her own part but to the project as a whole. As the music drives forward to the always-ebullient conclusion, the listener has the sense of deep involvement in a common purpose. This is music steeped in the traditions of an ancient culture, suggestive of the cradle of the musical world. When performed by master musicians, if you close your eyes, you can imagine the contributions from so many walks of life that made it possible for us to have this. A superb series of recordings is available, featuring works (with orchestra) for sehtar (also here), nay, tar (also here), santur, violin, and violin and tonbak. Here are a few selections:
- Ravayat (Dashti)
- Naze Nay (Shour)
- Sookhteh Delan (Homayoun)
- Shifteh (Ashfari)
- Shokouh (Bayate Esfahan)
- Shaida (Shour)
- Shoorideh (Bayate Tork)
- Glière, The Red Poppy, Op. 70 (1927, rev. 1949, rev. 1955): in this Russian ballet, the Red Poppy represents Communism, which the protagonist – as she dies - hands to a young girl as a symbol for passing down the Bolshevik Revolution and Communism.
In Les Misérables, Valjean pays forward the generosity, as the bishop had bestowed generosity on him. In this mini-narrative, we can see how generosity (service in the present) and gratefulness merge to create an emerging future.
Father Madeleine gave employment to every one. He exacted but one thing: Be an honest man. Be an honest woman. As we have said, in the midst of this activity of which he was the cause and the pivot, Father Madeleine made his fortune; but a singular thing in a simple man of business, it did not seem as though that were his chief care. He appeared to be thinking much of others, and little of himself. In 1820 he was known to have a sum of six hundred and thirty thousand francs lodged in his name with Laffitte; but before reserving these six hundred and thirty thousand francs, he had spent more than a million for the town and its poor. The hospital was badly endowed; he founded six beds there. M. sur M. is divided into the upper and the lower town. The lower town, in which he lived, had but one school, a miserable hovel, which was falling to ruin: he constructed two, one for girls, the other for boys. He allotted a salary from his own funds to the two instructors, a salary twice as large as their meagre official salary, and one day he said to some one who expressed surprise, "The two prime functionaries of the state are the nurse and the schoolmaster." He created at his own expense an infant school, a thing then almost unknown in France, and a fund for aiding old and infirm workmen. As his factory was a centre, a new quarter, in which there were a good many indigent families, rose rapidly around him; he established there a free dispensary. [Victor Hugo, Les Misérables (1862), Volume I – Fantine; Book Fifth – The Descent Begins, Chapter II, Madeleine.]
Reunited with Cosette and about to die, Jean Valjean expresses his wish that the future rest with the young:
May you be happy, may Monsieur Pontmercy have Cosette, may youth wed the morning, may there be around you, my children, lilacs and nightingales; may your life be a beautiful, sunny lawn, may all the enchantments of heaven fill your souls, and now let me, who am good for nothing, die; it is certain that all this is right. Come, be reasonable, nothing is possible now, I am fully conscious that all is over. And then, last night, I drank that whole jug of water. How good thy husband is, Cosette! Thou art much better off with him than with me." [Victor Hugo, Les Misérables (1862), Volume V – Jean Valjean; Book Ninth – Supreme Shadow, Supreme Dawn, Chapter V, A Night Beyond Which There Is Day.]