From The Editor

By Matt Evans
November/December 2013

Pay It Forward - Action or Reaction?

It’s an interesting question.

The craze that swept the nation in 2000, thanks to Catherine Ryan Hyde’s book Pay It Forward and a movie by the same name, seems to have had some staying power. An NBC Nightly News report in October of this year detailed the routine occurrence of people in Tulsa anonymously paying for the fast-food order of the car in the drive-thru behind them. In Houston, a string of 67 patrons in a row paid it forward (or backward as it were) at a Chick-fil-A.

There’s a global Pay It Forward website, a Pay It Forward Foundation, and even a world-wide Pay It Forward Day each year in April (April 24th 2014 for next year). So, why the continued belief in this idea? One man in this report said, “the world’s so stingy and selfish that it’s sort of fun for things like this to happen.”1  Fun indeed, but why?

If we are nothing more than a string of DNA put together by millions of years evolution, then why is it fun to give away my time or treasure when I could be using it to my own benefit? If there is no other meaning to my life other than to enjoy the 80 or 90 years that I spend operating this genetic code machine that I call my human body around the earth, then it makes no sense at all to act in any way that leans even slightly away from my own self interest. Why would anyone act unselfishly? Yet people do it all the time. The wonder isn't that the world is so stingy and selfish. The wonder is that there are people who are are concerned about their fellow man and act even the slightest bit unselfishly.

Could it be that we inherently know that just by being given life and breath, we’ve been blessed with an amazing gift? Then pile on the simple (but vital) joys of nourishment, refreshment, sunlight, relationships, and love, and pretty quickly we are overwhelmed. We haven’t done anything to deserve these gifts, but they sustain us every day. Really, to pay it forward is simply a natural act of worship. It’s a reaction, a way of saying thank-you to the one that gave us life, who blessed us to such an overflowing that we find it necessary to pass some of those blessings on. To truly pay it forward, you have to acknowledge to yourself that someone along the way paid the price for you.

I've said this before, and I will continue to yell it from the mountain tops: people who seek the outdoors to inspire and revitalize their souls are some of the most generous people there are. Maybe because out there, amidst the towering granite, roaring wind, and raging water, it is so obvious that we have been given a gift. It is clear that through no effort on our part beyond simply choosing to be out there, our souls are replenished and we overflow with awe and beauty and wonder. The only rational response to that is the need to share. Outdoor-minded people want to take others outdoors and to use their own outdoor passions to enrich other people's lives. That's why everywhere you turn there's a "Race For The Cure", a "Run For Relief", and a "Climb For A Cause." 

Whether it’s a random act of kindness, a commitment of time to help someone, or a steady practice of routine financial giving, we are designed to receive and give, to love and be loved, to be blessed and pass on a blessing to others. Really, we’re just responding to the example that Jesus set as He voluntarily got in that fast-food line a few thousand years ago and accomplished the ultimate Pay It Forward of all time. Who said there’s no such thing as a free lunch?

Pursue, Explore, Celebrate




About the Author

  • Matt_Evans's picture

    Matt Evans is a contributing editor for Shout! Outdoor Lifestyle Magazine. Matt loves to explore God's great outdoors and discover how God reveals himself in the majesty of His creation. He lives out his adventure in Alaska with his wife and three children. 

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