Twelve-year-old Trevor McKinney is the son of Arlene, a single mom working two jobs, and Ricky, a deadbeat absentee dad. He does not seem well positioned to revolutionize the world. But when Trevor's social studies teacher, Reuben St. Clair, gives the class an extra-credit assignment, challenging his students to design a plan to change society, Trevor decides to start a goodwill chain.
Trevor does 3 good deeds for others in need. In return, all that Trevor wants is that they pass on the good deed to three other people and keep the cycle going.
Even at an early age, Trevor realizes that one good deed might not seem like much, but if everyone does three good things for someone else, expecting only that they do the same for others, then the ripples of generosity and kindness could spark us to become better people.
It's a shame that not everyone has experienced this to the fullest. The idea of an International "Pay It Forward Day" is about all people, from all walks of life, giving to someone else and making a positive difference. At last count there were more than 28 countries around the world participating in the day.
"Some people were originally quite skeptical of the whole idea: they said that it was good in theory, but not in practice," says Catherine Ryan Hyde, author of the book and generator of the original idea. "I challenged this point of view, believing that people are genuinely giving by nature, but many get caught up in the hustle and bustle of everyday life."
Research from all over the world (articulated in Psychology Today and the book by Susan Skog, "The Give-Back Solution: Create a Better World with Your Time, Talents and Travel (Whether You Have $10 or $10,000") speaks to the benefits of doing volunteer work and good deeds - the basic ideas behind "Paying it Forward."
We have proof:
- Doing good for others can have a powerful, positive effect on the immune system and general health. Boston College researchers found that pain, depression, and disability in chronic pain patients decreased after volunteering.
- Contributing towards the greater good improves self-worth and self-esteem.
- Being generous to others prevents people from becoming isolated, encourages them to meet new people and to step outside of their comfort zones.
- Chronic negativity can be dismantled in the mind as positive energy flows from giving to others - the neural "glow" from helping others even shows up on MRI scans.
- Kindness helps relieve stress, which is a huge problem in many workplaces.
- "Helping contributes to the maintenance of good health, and it can diminish the effect of diseases and disorders, both serious and minor, psychological and physical." Allan Luks, after surveying 3,296 volunteers.
- Volunteering eases depression while helping us reach greater states of happiness and hope, as found by University of Texas and other researchers.
- Volunteering even helps you live longer, according to University of California-Los Angeles researchers.
- Teenagers who get turned on by service learning and volunteer work are much happier and more optimistic. They also get better grades and use drugs less.
So why do we want to do good for others - 1) besides repaying the many times people have done good and wonderful things for us; and 2) besides the research that shows life will be better and longer?
How about because we want to do good for others as a way to build and appreciate our Personal Safety Nets! Why?
* To show each other that we care and that there is love, hope and magic all around us.
* To know that we may be only one person in this world, but to one person, at one time, we are the world.
* To improve our own health and well-being.
* To encourage all of us to embrace the incredible power of giving.
* To make a difference and find our own power through giving.