Authored by Michele Roys (a guest contribution)
I have recently been reading about the “Pay It Forward Movement.”1 What stood out most to me about the pay-it-forward philosophy is how simple it is. Yet it is still often difficult to be altruistic and do something for someone just because someone has helped you, or because you want the cycle to continue.
So many times in my personal life I’ve been stuck and in need of help, and someone helped me out. When I was 19 years old and living in India as a volunteer for two years, my visa expired and I had to leave. I had a hard time leaving India. I loved the work I did with the underprivileged children, the deaf, and the relief work I had been involved in. Packing my suitcase wasn’t easy either. I had accumulated a lot of things during my stay, and there were airline restrictions in how much I could carry, so I downsized my belongings to fit into one big suitcase, a smaller carrying bag, and my guitar.
I arrived at the New Delhi airport three hours early. My heart was heavy; I was sad to be leaving this country I had grown to love. I was sad I had to forsake the things I had grown fond of. I was heading to Europe, but I wasn’t sure where God wanted me to go after that.
I had called ahead of time and learned that I was entitled to bring up to 32 kilos, and that my guitar would count as additional carry-on baggage. Well, when I arrived at the check-in desk, the lady said that for that particular flight I could only take 23 kilos and that my guitar could not be considered carry-on baggage. She said my small carry-on bag was also too heavy, as it could only be five kilos, and not 10.
I was stuck. I couldn’t afford to pay the overweight, and I couldn’t believe that they were now telling me something different from when I had first contacted their office.
I asked to talk to the overseer. As I waited, I noticed that he seemed very upset about something; he was talking intensely to three different people, and I just knew I had arrived at a bad time. I was praying desperately for God to do something, as I didn’t know what else I could do. I had already “trimmed” all I could. My friends who drove me to the airport had already left, and I didn’t know how to get rid of my clothes and/or my guitar, if I needed to.
The overseer very briskly asked me what I wanted. I tried to explain my predicament as precisely as I could, and asked if he could waive the fee for overweight, as I couldn’t afford to pay it. He refused to allow for an exception and told me that if I didn’t pay, my options were either to miss my flight—which wouldn’t be refunded—or throw my “extra” stuff in the trash so that I could make the flight.
You can imagine how I felt. Devastated. Indignant. Frustrated. I was pacing back and forth outside his office wondering why this was happening to me. It wasn’t my fault that the airline office had given me the wrong information. I felt that it would be a simple thing for the overseer to just say “yes,” especially after hearing that I was a volunteer who had given two years of my life to help the people of his country.
A man, having seen me walk up and down this same spot more than a few times, asked me what was wrong. I went on to explain to him the whole story, from the reason I had been living in India to my current predicament. I also explained that I asked the overseer but he didn’t seem to be in the mood for helping.
This gentleman, I discovered, worked with another airline and knew the overseer. He went to ask him if he would allow me on with the overweight baggage. The overseer said he had bigger problems to take care of.
This man appeared to be deep in thought and then said to me, “I will pay for your overweight. You don’t have to worry about it. I am also on this flight, and it would be a shame for you to miss it, after all you have done for my people, just because of 250 dollars!”
I was shocked, relieved, and very thankful.
Even the check-in desk attendant was amazed to see a total stranger helping me. She let my guitar go as a carry-on, as she had been feeling bad for my situation as well.
During our long flight, I sat next to this man, and he explained to me that when he was younger, about my age, he found himself in a similar situation. A gentleman came by and asked him if he needed help. He explained his dilemma, and the gentleman paid his train fare and asked him to pay it forward.
He said that when he saw me pace back and forth at the airport, he felt bad for me, as he had three daughters. One of them was on her way to the UK that day, and he pictured how she would have felt if she was the one stuck and in need of help, and that was why he decided to help me.
He felt good that he had, because not only had he been personally helped when he was younger, and felt that it was his turn to pay it forward, but also because he knew it was the right thing to do. He said he knew that God is always watching, and if his daughters were ever in a tight situation, he knew God would work something out for them too.
In the Bible there are many verses that speak of the pay-it-forward concept, such as: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you,”2 and “It’s more blessed to give than to receive.”3
The Lord promises that it will always come back to you: “Give, and it shall be given unto you … for in the same measure that you have given, your heavenly Father will give it to you.”4
There is also the saying that, “If you sow kindness, you will reap kindness.”
This man paid it forward, saved my day, and made a real impact in my personal life. I have always done my best to help and give to people because I know it is the right thing to do, and this is really what it boils down to. We give from our heart and pass on to others the kindness that has been shown us.
Recently I took a trip with my choir, and I got very sick with a migraine. I was on a tight budget, and was avoiding making any extra purchases so that I could save money. One of the ladies on my trip overheard my remark on being sparing and she handed me some money to buy anti-migraine pills. As she did this, she said, “I know you would do the same for me if I had a need.”
It made me so thankful for all the times that God led me to help others out of love, not expecting anything in return. I also thought of the many times that I was stuck, and someone helped me out of kindness, not expecting anything in return.
May God help me to always be ready and willing to do the same for others in need.
1 Pay It Forward Movement
2 Luke 6:31
3 Acts 20:35
4 Luke 6:38
Read by Amber Larriva. Music by sindustry(CC). Copyright© 2013 by The Family International