What do the movie “Pay It Forward” and an ecumenical group at Marshall’s Campus Christian Center have in common? They both envision a world changing concept: Demonstrate “love” for others through actions, not lip service, which includes unconditional acceptance despite race, religion, gender, character flaws, or physical and mental impairments.
“Pay It Forward” begins with a middle school teacher challenging his students to come up with an idea to change the world and act upon it. Otherwise, why would a prominent attorney hand the keys of his Jaguar to a flunky journalist whose vehicle just overheated? Just one student made friends with a homeless man and invited him for dinner. Mom isn’t thrilled, but the youngster’s plan is to perform three random acts of kindness to strangers and pass them on. Hence, the attorney providing his car.
The school teacher, a scarred victim of domestic violence, has an agenda; he’s challenging his classes to inject a little “good” into the world.
Random Acts of Kindness flicks have a long history of inspiring moviegoers. Classic film fans would immediately nominate “It’s a Wonderful Life” or other Capra-esque productions. “The Magnificent Obsession,” has twice been remade. That film stresses the importance of unselfishness and unconditional love for one another. More recently, a group of postal workers in “Dear God” decided to “answer” dead letters addressed to the Supreme Being.
A speaker at PROWL (People Reaching Out With Love) at the Christian Center conveyed a similar message telling of a Christian sociologist who ate at an all-night “greasy spoon.” He observed a group of prostitutes. One complained that tomorrow was her birthday and she had never had a party or a cake. After the group left, the sociologist asked the manager if they could through a surprise party for the woman. The owner and his wife agreed. The next night the woman was so touched by the party that she asked to keep the cake. No one had expressed that type of “love” for her previously.
Actually, Hollywood has an easier time convincing viewers to “accept” societal outcasts who turn into handsome princes, beautiful princesses and happily ever after relationships. Reality does not offer two hour problem solutions. It’s a wonder that anyone couples these days for any significant period of time. The fairer sex seem to team up to swat male intruders. While the couple may be doing mostly “just fine, thank you,” friends and family assault the woman with his flaws (or vice versa). Like Hollywood, she thinks she will “change” him in a matter of a few days, weeks or months. By the time, he trusts her love, she gives up and moves onto another quest for perfection.
The Mars and Venus connotations of men and women by best selling author John Gray offer pertinent examples of techniques to improve gender understanding and communication. Still, contrary to kindness at random, various movements instilled strongly independent “I don’t need anyone but me” philosophies. Those who do “need” are considered “weak” or “gullible.” Others are so afraid of getting hurt again that they sabotage a good relationship or find an undesirable trait in their partner, magnify it, then justify ending the relationship themselves before they get hurt. Of course, both end up hurt anyway. Maybe that’s why we find it easier to offer our love to members of the animal kingdom than fellow human beings. Dogs and cats need our compassion , too. They offer us “unconditional acceptance” and “sacrifice,” but they depend upon us to provide food, water, shelter , medical attention, and appreciation. Ironically, though, most of us would readily help a three-legged dog, than a one legged human!
Bringing all this chicken soup kindness and love full circle radiates back to the principles of Christianity and other religions: Love your neighbor as yourself, do unto others, express love to each other (even strangers) and accept everyone for whom they are. Help someone do something they can not do themselves! Funny, the “founder” of that principle ended up executed on a cross for his random miracles of love.
Tony Rutherford, Graduate Student, PO Box 362, Hgtn., WV 25708