One of the joys of films is they have the ability to conjure up different places in our imagination, whether this be a ‘Galaxy Far Far Away’, or a Pirate ship in the Caribbean, our disbelief is suspended, and we are magically transported away from our everyday lives into the realms of fantasy and make believe. Occasionally however, we stumble across a film which takes the everyday and brings an important message home to us, in a way that only cinema can. Films like Schindler’s List or Saving Private Ryan show the horrors of war, which produce visceral reactions and emotions. Movies such as The King’s Speech, Apollo 13 and Argo, recruit moments in history (albeit with some Hollywood-isation!). Still others like The Blind Side, The Pursuit of Happiness and Awakenings show the triumph of human fortitude over adversity… Pay it Forward is one of those films… and what is more, it spawned a movement that continues to positively impact the world today…
Pay It forward
We all had that one teacher who challenged or inspired us to more that we could possibly imagine. They may have believed in us when we didn’t have the confidence to believe in ourselves. They may have showed through the way they engaged or behaved a better path for us to follow. Or, they may have set us a simple homework project which caused us to think less about ourselves and more about others… something that for most of our teenage selves would have normally been unthinkable!
This is the concept of Pay It Forward, where 12-year-old Trevor McKinney is set a homework project by his Social Studies teacher Mr Simonet. The project – ‘Thing of something to change the world and put it into action’. What makes Trevor’s response all the more remarkable, is that he lives with an alcoholic mum and an absentee, abusive father.
Trevor’s idea, like many which are brilliant, is a very simple one. When we are blessed by someone doing something for us (a favour), respond by blessing someone else in need… pay that blessing forward. Do something nice for someone else and simply ask that when they can, bless the next person along. In the film, Trevor welcomes a homeless man into his home. He feeds him, clothes him, and offers him a place to wash and sleep (all whilst his alcoholic Mum is passed out on the sofa). Later, the homeless man repairs the Mum’s broken-down car, and eventually we see him talking a suicidal woman down off a bridge… the blessing played forward.
One of the reasons why I believe that this film has had such a wide impact across the world, spawning the movement it has, is that it doesn’t have a traditional Hollywood ending – spoiler alert – Trevor tragically dies when he’s stabbed trying to defend a friend who’d been attacked by bullies. We, the audience, are left with the sense that because Trevor didn’t get to see his ambitions and goals achieved, somehow, we can continue his legacy and continue to Pay It Forward in his honour. Not a bad outcome for a fictional character in a financially underperforming movie!
So how does this work with east to west and from a Christian perspective?
As people of faith, we’ve been blessed with the ultimate ‘Play It Forward’ – it is the death of Christ, that blesses us beyond imagination, and which grants us (as believers) eternity with our Father in Heaven. One act, countlessly blessing the lives of those who’ve come after. And we are called to offer that blessing to others through our words, our deeds, and our actions. When we’ve been blessed, we are called to thank the one who blesses us (God) and use that blessing to bless others.
At east to west, we choose to use the blessing of gifts and skills we’ve been given to support children, young people, and families across our projects. We seek to meet the needs of those around us, through building relationships, listening, and putting their needs at the heart of our pastoral response. Many of you, our supporters, similarly use the gifts you’ve been blessed with, to bless us, as a charity, through giving your time, prayers, or money.
Maybe, then, we should recognise that as Christians, pay it forward has always been a thing… we’ve simply called it ‘blessing others’. Perhaps it’s taken the actions of a fictional 12-year-old to help the world to see the importance of what we as believers in Christ already know…
Ps it you’d like to watch a clip of Pay It Forward, you can do so with this YouTube link: (5229) The Philosophy of Pay It Forward - YouTube
November Prayer Requests
This month we’ve asked Clare, one of east to west’s Head of Schools and Relational Support Worker at Matthew Arnold to share some prayer pointers about the work across the schools and team she supports.
Please pray for the new Safeguarding Lead at Twickenham school – Alice – as she settles into her new role and the big challenges she’ll face.
Continued prayers for the new team in schools, who’ve made a great start and integrated well. Pray that they’d continue to thrive and continue to be a real blessing to the schools their based in.
For Sue on the pastoral team at Teddington, who’s been ill. Pray that as she returns to school and that this transition would be managed well.
Pray for the students who are facing their mock exams in the coming weeks, especially those who’re doing their GCSE assessments.
Give thanks for the staff we’re blessed to work alongside. Pray for safety and wisdom for them in their roles.
Pray that God would give strength and energy to the team as they head into the second part of the Autumn Term. This is a long term and can be really draining especially as the nights begin to draw in.