Our Daily Struggle to Be Kind
Although kindness is encouraged by every major religion and is recognized as a value in many cultures, sometimes it’s reeeally hard to be kind. We all know it. In fact, at some points in our life, it feels easier to be unkind – especially when we’re not in a great place and we feel like the world is working against us. If our self-esteem is a bit shaky, or if we want to be perceived as strong by others, then sometimes we act unkindly towards people.
But – underneath – we are all vulnerable. As Plato once said, “be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.” If we think about it rationally, we’d probably understand that horrible people do horrible things because they’re hurting. Sometimes a person can’t afford to acknowledge how unkind they’re being because deep down, they already feel terrible about themselves.
Remember, though, that what goes around comes around! Research has shown that being kind to others increases our own levels of happiness as well as theirs. What’s more, it has a knock-on effect – kindness is contagious, so it makes a bigger impact on our surroundings than we might think.
Kindness in Modern day Life
74% of Millennials believe they can make a difference in the world. But if pressed, most aren’t sure what that difference will entail.
I was talking to a 20-something friend of mine the other day, and he said, “I feel everyone in my generation wants to change the world, but if you ask them how, nobody knows. They have this restless urge to do something important, but all they ever actually do is buy products designed to ‘build awareness’ or tweet out a certain hashtag to show their support for some cause.”
It’s great to have big, idealistic plans to build wells in Africa or change the whole political process. But oftentimes we only associate doing good with doing something big, and since we don’t know how to get started on a huge project, we end up doing nothing at all.
Might I suggest we aim simultaneously lower and higher?
Society has any number of pressing needs that are crying out to be tackled. But there’s a need that everyone can start addressing immediately — no experience or Kickstarter campaign required: regularly showing more human kindness.
I know, I know. Talking about kindness can seem cheesy. It isn’t cool. Doesn’t have much currency in our cynical age. Kindness doesn’t scream “manly” either. But I truly believe that helping our brothers and sisters along the way is what this life’s journey is all about, for men and women alike. At the same time, this service is the surest path to finding our own happiness.
Showing kindness doesn’t have to involve Mother Theresa-like dedication. It’s the small things that often not only make the most difference, but also most test our character.
The Butterfly Effect and Changing The World
We live in a complex world and at one point we’ve all felt powerless over unpleasant things that affect our daily lives in varying magnitudes. That’s where ‘the Butterfly’ effect comes in. The Butterfly effect is simply a theory that was stated in 1963 by a mathematician and meteorologist Edward Lorenz.
The theory described how tiny variations can have profound effects to giant systems and complex systems like weather patterns. The theory suggested that, the wing movement of a butterfly on one side of the world creates tiny changes in the atmosphere and in turn set molecules of air in motion, consequently creating significant changes in wind strengths and movements to weather throughout the weather systems of the world that could theoretically cause tornadoes halfway around the world.
Like you, at first I couldn’t wrap my head around the whole concept. However, further research by physicists proves the theory accurate and in fact a law has been developed around it ‘The law of sensitive dependence on initial conditions’.
Think about it, isn’t this a prove that small positive actions taken in the present can actually change the future for the better? In the butterfly effect, the butterfly does not create or power the tornado. The flap of its wings is part of the initial conditions that can lead to a chain of events leading to a large-scale chain of events. This means if the butterfly didn’t flap its wings, the trajectory of the system could have been greatly altered.
The butterfly effect teaches us important lessons. Everything we do matters and you matter. There are dozens of problems in the planet to be resolved, hence it’s more important than ever to reach deep inside and let our light shine.
The good part is, we do not need to take massive, earth changing actions. Every smile, every gesture of kindness to a child or animal all matter. Make it your duty to make someone’s day brighter everyday. You were created to make a difference! Like the butterflies, we are all changemakers and our actions can have far reaching effects. The choice is yours on the change you want to see in the world.
No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted.” Aesop
What does that mean?
This quote is from the famous story, The Lion and the Mouse wherein a small Mouse, caught by the Lion, is released rather than eaten, as a kindness.
Later, the Mouse comes across the Lion, trapped in a net. The Mouse remembers the kindness done for him by the Lion, and chews through the ropes, freeing the Lion, and returning the kindness.
The moral of the story is held that there is no one so lowly that they cannot be of some use, and that none should be scorned for their lowly position or life.
That, in my opinion, still is true today. While most societies still have some forms of stratification, most people understand that kindness costs themselves little, and can be of great benefit to them when returned.
Why is kindness important?
In a 2003 study of 37 cultures around the world, 16,000 subjects were asked about their most desired traits in a mate. For both sexes, the first preference was kindness!
In the case of this quote, it is an act of kindness, done to someone who could not possibly ever do a favor for you in return. And the experience, for those who have done it, is rather odd. Often, we do something for someone with the intention of having them do something nice in return.
When you do something nice for someone who you could not ever imagine having the ability to help you, the feeling is quite liberating. You aren’t thinking about how much to help, or what to do, weighing it against what they could do in return. You simply do what you can, and walk away.
Whether it’s putting enough change in the toll booth for the next few cars, or telling your server at the restaurant that you want to pay for someone else’s bill, it’s simply being kind. Those examples centered around money, but there are plenty of other ways to be kind to others.
Almost any volunteer work would fall under this category. You would be helping those least able to help themselves, much less help you. Unless, of course, you consider the warm feeling you get from helping someone else as a form of repayment, or their heartfelt thanks. That’s worth something, but you know what I mean.
Where can I apply this in my life?
As mentioned in the prior section, there are plenty of ways to be kind to others. And that is something at which, I believe, we can all improve. Can you ever be too kind? In my experience, I would say no. I have tried to do all I can, and could always think of things I could have done, if I’d had more time or energy.
But to me, the good feeling you get from doing a selfless act is the best thing about being kind. Even if you don’t see any immediate improvement in your material condition, you feel better inside. And, unless you don’t have your basic needs covered, that’s a great thing to have going for you.
Whether it is as simple as holding open a door for someone, or something more involved, like rebuilding a house, you still feel good inside. And if the person you held the door for doesn’t say thanks, and you get mad, does it say more about them, or about you? Perhaps they just forgot. Feel good anyway, don’t let them spoil it.
Think about that for a moment. You do something nice for someone, and they do something for you. It’s over. Two people were helped. End of story. But if you do something for someone else, they will have to find a third person so that they may perform an act of kindness. Then what will that person do?
And if any of these people get to liking the feeling of being kind to others, they might actually do it again. Now we’re up to at least four people, and as this continues, more people will do kindnesses to others. It really can spread like wildfire, if you choose to participate.
Many of us think “But what can I do?” The world sometimes seems to be so overwhelming and it appears that there is nothing that we can do to make a change in the world. Sometimes we are afraid (what if it’s a trick? Is the person stopped by the side of the road a robber who wants to mug me?) and other times we’re just too busy (I have somewhere to be and if I let this person in ahead of me in traffic I will be wasting time).
It can be overwhelming and sometimes we feel as though there is nothing that we can do: but there is always something that we can do. Something as “simple” as a smile can change a person’s day. If you feel that you’re too busy to allow someone ahead of you in traffic, consider that it will only set you back a minute or two — not a lot of time in the long run, and you will have made someone’s day!
Imagine a world where a chain reaction of kindness was ongoing. Will it be better or worse than where we are today? Can you think of a single good reason not to help someone, some way, today? Even if it’s just a smile or a nod, acknowledging another person is a kindness too often lacking today. Also Karma concept is very real. You reap what you sow.
The difference between being nice and being kind
The difference between “niceness” and “kindness” is night and day, yet people often use these two words interchangeably, assuming that they’re “basically the same thing.” Well, I hope that I can help clear up that misconception with this article.
A little preview: Kindness is rooted in love, niceness is rooted in fear. But more on that later!
So let’s start with some definitions! Here’s the best set I could find on the Internet:
Nice: adj; pleasant or pleasing or agreeable in nature or appearance; socially or conventionally correct; refined or virtuous
Kind: adj; having or showing a tender and considerate and helpful nature; used especially of persons and their behavior; characterized by mercy, and compassion
A “nice” person is one who conforms his behavior to what he believes society sees as “nice.” A “kind” person doesn’t necessarily care about what “society” thinks of him; he acts out of a deep-rooted love for his fellow living beings.
On the surface, this might not seem to be a very important distinction. However, when we look deeper at the roots of these two behavior patterns, we see two very different human beings.
The nice person is focused on himself – he does nice things in order to be perceived (by others and by himself) as a “nice person.”
The kind person is focused on others – all he wants is to relieve the suffering of the living, conscious creature in front of him.
When we dig deeper into these two “personalities,” we will find that they are often diametrically opposed.
The kind person is strong. The nice person is weak.
The kind person is selfless. The nice person is selfish.
The kind person feels empathy. The nice person is narcissistic.
The kind person is happy. The nice person does not know happiness.
Ultimately: The core of a “kind person” is love. The core of a “nice person” is fear.
This is something I realized several years ago, and it really changed the way I look at people.
A nice person appears sweet and compliant and goes with the flow. A nice person is careful not to ruffle anyone’s feathers and puts others before themselves. This is niceness….and guess what? It’s totally weak. The nice person is frequently afraid of being honest about what they think or how they feel, lest someone think less of them or disagree with them or be offended by them. A nice person avoids conflict, frequently at great cost to themselves. A nice person lacks healthy emotional boundaries and overcommits to others, sometimes to the point that they are unable to make good on their promises. A nice person has an incredibly difficult time saying no. A nice person, deep down, is filled with resentment. A nice person, deep down, does not respect themselves. A nice person, deep down, is manipulating people with their niceness so that others will like them. They do this in order to get their own emotional needs met.
You don’t want to be a nice person. A nice person is not an emotionally healthy one. A nice person lives in a lot of denial.
A kind person is altogether different. A kind person cares about other people, is friendly and “nice” to them – but a kind person does not back down from being honest about what they think or how they feel just to avoid a conflict. A kind person has no trouble “nicely” saying no if they do not want to do something or if their schedule doesn’t allow for it. Therefore, a kind person can be counted on. A kind person is emotionally responsible, they do not look to other people to meet needs that they alone are responsible for. A kind person sets and maintains healthy emotional boundaries. A kind person does not allow others to walk all over them, they are good stewards of themselves and their lives. A kind person has self-respect. A kind person is emotionally healthy. A kind person is honest – with themselves and with other people.
You want to be a kind person. If you are a truly kind person, no one will mistake your kindness for weakness.
how to change from being nice to being kind
It’s really, really hard. I think a good place to start is by making a conscious effort to be honest with yourself about your motives – are you nice because you’re a people pleaser and you want people to like you and accept your or is it because you genuinely care about them? Most “nice” people aren’t aware of the fact that they’re so agreeable because subconsciously they’re looking for approval.
It’s an insecurity issue at it’s root, so the cure is to learn how to love, value, and accept yourself. Make peace with who you are. Once you do that, you are free from needing anyone else’s approval. You can make a choice to be kind and giving to others from a place a pure motives and not from a place of fear of not being accepted or a compulsion to be liked. And there is another difference between being nice and kind. If you’re kind you won’t be expecting any gratitude, you’re just doing what’s right.
Don’t mistake my kindness for weakness
Being kind is often dismissed as weakness. Of course it is; we live in a competitive environment that emphasizes winning at any cost. Nastiness and success tend to go together.
Anyone can take advantage of generosity, and there are plenty of people who believe that others are only kind to them when they want something, or because they’re afraid. So it’s important to remember that being kind does not mean being a doormat: you still have to assert yourself and stand up for what’s right
Are you confusing gentleness and kindness with weakness? Discover what weakness really is and how to acquire the strength to be kind and gentle.
“Tenderness and kindness are not signs of weakness and despair but manifestations of strength and resolution.” ~Kahlil Gibran
“If I cry in movies people will think I’m weak.”
“If I’m kind, people will take advantage of me.”
“If I’m gentle, people will see me as weak instead of powerful.”
“Being emotional is a sign of weakness.”
It is always sad to me when I hear people say this. I can easily identify with them, as I was also brought to believe that kindness, tenderness, and deep feelings were signs of weakness.
What is particularly sad to me is that the exact opposite is true.
Is it strength or weakness to have your heart open, rather than closed and protected against your fears of rejection?
Is it a sign of personal power or a sign of weakness when you put up walls of anger and judgment to protect yourself from being taken advantage of?
Inner strength is about knowing and valuing who you are – what is good and wonderful about you, what is true for you, what is in integrity for you. When you know these things about yourself, you no longer take rejection personally. You are no longer vulnerable to compromising yourself to please others. You can now keep your heart open to love, compassion, kindness and tenderness toward yourself and others because your fears of rejection and engulfment are gone.
This is strength. This is personal power.
When you have this inner strength, you can cry when you are moved without worrying about what anyone else will think, because you know that what they think of you is more about them than about you.
Weakness is about making others responsible for your sense of self-worth. Weakness stems from refusing to take responsibility for defining your own self-worth. Once you make others responsible for defining whether you are weak or strong, okay or not okay, competent or incompetent, worthy or unworthy, lovable or unlovable, then you have to constantly try to control what they think of you. That’s when you might be afraid to cry when you are moved, or be kind and gentle with yourself or others, for fear of others’ judgment of you.
Benefits of Kindness on Health
Of course, we should never do an act of kindness to gain from it. We should always be kind because it’s the right thing to do. But when we are kind, the following are some side effects that come with it.
1) Kindness makes us happier.
When we do something kind for someone else, we feel good. On a spiritual level, many people feel that this is because it is the right thing to do and so we’re tapping into something deep and profound inside us that says, “This is who I am.”
On a biochemical level, it is believed that the good feeling we get is due to elevated levels of the brain’s natural versions of morphine and heroin, which we know as Endogenous Opioids They cause elevated levels of Dopamine in the brain, so we get a natural high, often referred to as “Helper’s High.”
2) Kindness gives us healthier hearts.
Acts of kindness are often accompanied by emotional warmth. Emotional warmth produces the hormone Oxytocin in the brain and throughout the body. Of much recent interest is its significant role in the cardiovascular system.
Oxytocin causes the release of a chemical called Nitric Oxide in blood vessels, which dilates (expands) the blood vessels. This reduces blood pressure, and therefore oxytocin is known as a “cardio-protective” hormone because it protects the heart (by lowering blood pressure). The key is that acts kindness can produce oxytocin, and therefore kindness can be said to be cardio-protective.
3) Kindness slows aging.
Aging on a biochemical level is a combination of many things, but two culprits that speed the process are free radicals and inflammation, both of which result from making unhealthy lifestyle choices.
But remarkable research now shows that oxytocin (which we produce through emotional warmth) reduces levels of free radicals and inflammation in the cardiovascular system and thus slows aging at its source. Incidentally these two culprits also play a major role in heart disease, so this is also another reason why kindness is good for the heart.
There have also been suggestions in the scientific journals of the strong link between compassion and the activity of the Vagus nerve. The vagus nerve, in addition to regulating heart rate, also controls inflammation levels in the body in what is known as the inflammatory reflex. One study that used the Tibetan Buddhist lovingkindness meditation found that kindness and compassion did, in fact, reduce inflammation in the body, mostly likely due to its effects on the vagus nerve.
Introducing Kindness into our Schools
Scientific studies have shown that kindness has a great number of physical and emotional benefits and that children require a healthy dose of warm fuzzies in order to flourish as healthy, happy, well-rounded individuals.
Patty O’Grady, PhD, is an expert in the area of neuroscience, emotional learning, and positive psychology with special attention to the educational arena.
She believes that “kindness changes the brain by the experience of kindness. Children and adolescents do not learn kindness by only thinking about it and talking about it. Kindness is best learned by feeling it so that they can reproduce it. Kindness is an emotion that students feel and empathy is a strength that they share.”
Teaching kindness in schools results in the following:
Increased peer acceptance. Research has determined that kindness increases our ability to form meaningful connections with others. Kind, happy children enjoy greater peer acceptance because they are well-liked. Because of an even distribution of popularity, better-than-average mental health is reported in classrooms that practice more inclusive behavior.
Greater sense of belonging and improved self-esteem. Studies show that people experience a “helper’s high” when they do a good deed — a rush of endorphins that creates a lasting sense of pride and well-being and an enriched sense of belonging. Even small acts of kindness are reported to heighten our sense of well-being, increase energy and give a wonderful feeling of optimism and self-worth.
Increased feelings of gratitude. When children are part of projects that help less-fortunate others, it provides them a real sense of perspective and helps them appreciate the good things in their own lives.
Less bullying. Two Penn State Harrisburg faculty researchers, Shanetia Clark and Barbara Marinak, say, “unlike previous generations, today’s adolescents are victimizing each other at alarming rates.” They argue adolescent bullying and youth violence can be confronted through in-school programs that integrate “kindness — the antithesis of victimization.” Many traditional anti-bullying programs have little impact because they focus on the negative actions that cause children anxiety. Teaching kindness and compassion in schools not only fosters the positive behavior that creates warm and inclusive school environments, but also helps children feel that they belong. It’s documented that the effects of bullying can be significantly reduced by integrating kindness-based programs in schools.
Maurice Elias, a professor in Rutgers University’s psychology department, says that “as a citizen, grandparent, father, and professional, it is clear to me that the mission of schools must include teaching kindness. Without it, communities, families, schools, and classrooms become places of incivility where lasting learning is unlikely to take place.
“Kindness can be taught, and it is a defining aspect of civilized human life. It belongs in every home, school, neighborhood, and society.”
It’s become quite clear that modern education must encompass more than just academics. For children to develop into happy, confident, well-rounded individuals, matters of the heart must be taken seriously and nurtured as a matter of priority
Kindness in Judaism
Chesed (חסד, also Romanized ẖesed) is a Hebrew word commonly translated as “loving-kindness,” “kindness” or “love.” Chesed is central to Jewish ethics and Jewish theologyand is a common term in the Bible for describing God’s love for humankind and God’s special relationship with the Children of Israel.
Chesed is valued by religious Jews of all denominations. It is considered a virtue on its own, and also for its contribution to tikkun olam (repairing the world). It is also considered the foundation of many religious commandments practiced by traditional Jews, especially interpersonal commandments. Chesed is the basis for a wide variety of Jewish communal institutions.
Chesed is also one of the ten Sephirot on the Kabbalistic Tree of Life. It is given the association of kindness and love, and is the first of the emotive attributes of the sephirot..
In a sense, the goal of the whole enterprise of Judaism is to develop human beings whose principal trait is chesed. The rabbis of the Talmud (Yevamot 79a) considered kindness to be one of the three distinguishing marks of the Jew.
A favorite Talmudic name for God is Rachmana, “the Compassionate One.” Every act of human chesed is an imitation of the benevolence of God. It appears on page after page of the Jewish Prayer book, in chapter after chapter of the Psalms, and is implied in the legal and moral decisions on folio after folio of the Talmud.
The Torah begins with an act of chesed as God clothes Adam and Eve, and ends with it as God buries Moses. Jewish Law formally begins with the Torah at Mt. Sinai, but chesed begins with Abraham, centuries earlier. The world could not have endured so long without chesed; it would have imploded.
Chesed is a daily requirement – which means it is a lifetime requirement – and it is most succinctly manifested in the act of giving. It implies attitudes integral to the person’s character, inseparable from one’s inner nature, and spans the whole gamut of virtues which operate in interpersonal relationships – charity and compassion, love and respect.
This inner sensitivity is expressed in specific formal religious acts, which are commandments that have biblical or rabbinic warrant. These mitzvoth are not merely “nice,” suggested behaviors, but duties mandated the Jew
Kindness in Christianity
God created the world as well as humanity, and He graciously allows us to live here. He also gives us free choice to live as we please, though He deeply wants us to choose His way of life, knowing that it is the only way that will bring true happiness. What great kindness!
God wants us to become like Him. Though God’s tender mercies and loving-kindnesses are often taken for granted, His servants recognize His hand. The same will be true of us if we follow His example and are merciful and kind as He is. Biblical history shows that God’s mercy and kindness was many times shown through people He inspired. God raised up deliverers and sent prophets who tried to help the people.
Why does God want us to demonstrate kindness? We are tools to extend God’s loving-kindness and mercy to the world. We are to reflect the light and example of His compassion, mercy and kindness. We are to become like Him so we can be in His family forever!
“Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy” (Matthew 5:7)
The Greek word for “kind” is chrestos . Part of its meaning is useful, which makes it clear that biblical kindness involves action. “Dear children, let us stop just saying we love each other; let us really show it by our actions” (1 John 3:18, New Living Translation, emphasis added throughout).
Of course, the emphasis on deeds over mere words does not mean words are unnecessary. Action includes words. Encouraging words of comfort, courtesy, compliments and even correction can be heartwarming acts of kindness. Several biblical proverbs attest to this.
The first section of Proverbs 19:22 states,
“What is desired in a man is kindness.”
Why? Why would God consider this trait so important?
Psalm 25:6 makes an interesting point about the origin of kindness:
“Remember; O Lord, Your tender mercies and your Loving-Kindnesses, For they are from of old”
So the mercy comes from being a loving Kind Entity, This is applied for all human beings, Creatures and God Himself.
Kindness in Islam
In every moral code, there is special emphasis on kindness as it’s a powerful instrument that makes interaction among humans gainful, and imparts richness and ethical beauty to social dealings.
Kindness facilitates human understanding and reduces the chances of friction and conflict, which abound in practically every walk of life. Islam enjoins kindness towards all individuals, but more so towards certain categories, such as parents and orphans. This quality is particularly stressed in the Quran. This was the advice given to the Children of Israel as evident from the following verse
“And (remember) when We made a covenant with the Children of Israel, (saying) Worship none save Allah, and be good to parents and to kindred and to orphans and the needy, and speak kindly to mankind; and establish worship and pay the poor their due. Then, after that, you slid back save a few of you, being averse.” Surah Al-Baqrah Verse (83)
Kindness must never be forgotten towards parents even when they attain old age and become a liability for a person. “Your Lord has decreed, that you worship none save Him, and (that you show) kindness to parents. If one of them or both attain old age … speak unto them with a gracious word.” Surah Al-Isra Verse (23)
Acts of charity must also be accompanied by words of kindness “Those who spend their wealth for the cause of Allah and afterward make not reproach and injury to follow that which they have spent, their reward is with their Lord, and there shall no fear to come upon them, neither shall they grieve.” Surah Al-Baqrah Verse (262)
Allah also urges the Prophet of Islam (PBUH) to stress kindness among believers in their daily actions “Keep to forgiveness (Mohammad), and enjoin kindness, and turn away from the ignorant.” Surah Al-A’raf Verse (199)
The Prophet said there is a reward for kindness to every living animal or human. He was tender and kind towards cats and often lowered his vessel to give cats a drink. A narrative from the Prophet’s time describes an instance when a thirsty man went down a well for water. When he came back out, he saw a panting dog eating mud to quench its thirst. The man said, “This dog is feeling the same thirst that I felt.” So he went down into the well again, filled his shoe with water, climbed back up and gave the dog water. Allah forgave this man of his sins for this act of compassion and kindness. In Islam, hunting birds and animals for pleasure or sport is not allowed. Hunting is only allowed as a means of sustenance. Similarly, Islam prohibits the cutting or destruction of trees and plants that yield fruit, unless there is an absolute need for it.
Islam expects humankind to treat all animals (all living creatures – birds, sea creatures, and insects) with respect and dignity. Prophet Muhammad continuously advised people to show kindness. He forbade the practice of cutting tails and manes of horses, of branding animals at any soft spot, and of keeping horses saddled unnecessarily. Saheeh Muslim
However, refraining from physical cruelty is not enough; abstaining from mental cruelty is equally as important. Even a bird’s emotional distress should be treated seriously. One of Prophet Muhammad’s companions narrates, “We were on a journey and during the Prophet’s absence, we saw a bird with its two chicks; we took them. The mother bird was circling above us in the air, beating its wings in grief. When Prophet Muhammad returned he said, “Who has hurt the feelings of this bird by taking its chicks? Return them to her.” Saheeh Muslim
If the Prophet saw, any animal over-burdened or ill fed he would speak mildly to the owner and say, “Fear God in your treatment of animals.” Abu Dawood.
“Kindness is a mark of faith, and whoever is not kind has no faith.” (Muslim)
“Whoever is kind, Allah will be kind to him; therefore be kind to man on the earth. He who is in heaven will show mercy on you.”(Abu Dawud)
Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) said, “Do not disdain a good deed, (no matter how small it may seem) even if it is your meeting with your (Muslim) brother with a cheerful face.”
So kindness is regarded highly in islam because it’s in the core of being a human being, no matter how small this act of kindness, God will repay you for it.
Pay it forward Directed by Mimi Leder
A moral adventure story about an 11-year-old boy who starts a project of practicing kindness and compassion that spreads to others.
Film Review by Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat
Trevor McKinney (Haley Joel Osment) is an eleven-year-old who lives in Las Vegas with his working-class mother, Arlene (Helen Hunt), who is a recovering alcoholic. She works hard at two jobs to support her son but feels that it is a losing battle. Trevor is a latch-key kid who often has to take care of himself.
This seventh-grader’s spirits are lifted when on the first day of school Eugene Simonet (Kevin Spacey), his new social studies teacher, gives the class an extra credit assignment: “Think of an idea to change our world and put it into action.” Whereas the rest of the class has trouble looking past the teacher’s badly scarred face, Trevor realizes that he now has been given a moral adventure.
The energetic and idealistic boy decides he will do a good deed for three people, something they can’t do for themselves, and then will ask each one of them to “pay it forward” by doing similarly difficult big favors for three others. Trevor begins by helping out a homeless man (James Caviezel), a heroin addict. He gives him lodging for a night, a chance to take a shower, and some money so the fellow can get it together and look for a job.
Trevor’s second mission is to bring the lonely Eugene together with his mother. Only trouble is that they both must deal with old tapes of fear, self-doubt, and lack of self-esteem. And to make matters worse, Trevor’s physically abusive and alcoholic father (Jon Bon Jovi) returns home. The boy’s third project is to help out a weak classmate at school who is always being attacked by bullies.
Meanwhile, a Los Angeles reporter, Chris Chandler (Jay Mohr), is knocked for a loop when a lawyer (Gary Werntz) gives him his Jaguar after seeing that his old Mustang has been totaled. Tracking the rich man down, he learns that his action was part of paying forward the kindness he received from an African American (David Ramsey) in a hospital emergency room. That person, in turn, was given a new lease on life by an alcoholic lady (Angie Dickinson) who lives in her car in a desolate area outside Las Vegas.
Eventually, Chandler’s investigations lead him to Trevor and his innovative “pay it forward” project that has already had more of a positive impact on the world than he had realized. The reporter does an interview with the boy on his twelfth birthday. Soon afterwards Trevor is back at his good work helping out his classmate at school.
This inspiring and imaginative film is based on a novel of the same title by Catherine Ryan Hyde. Mimi Leder (ER, China Beach, Deep Impact) directs from a screenplay by Leslie Dixon. It speaks directly to the greatest social problem and character disorder of our times — incivility. Wherever one looks — in the home, on the street, or at work — everyone is consumed with taking care of number one. Small acts of courtesy, it seems are a thing of the past.
Pay It Forward dares to point us in a different direction. It boldly reveals that kindness and putting others first are acts of moral beauty. It concretely proclaims that each person can make a difference in the world by doing good. And it reveals that although we’ll probably never know the effects of our acts of compassion, that’s okay. All of the world’s religions point out that the reward is in the act itself. Pay it forward is an inspiring movie to make us believe again in the goodness of people, to make us want to make the world a better place. to make us spread the light of Kindness.
A Magical Spell
Let’s face it: we live in a world that many times focuses on the negative, on the bad, on the pessimistic. Just turn on the nightly news — it’s cringe worthy. I’m not sure if it’s because there are so many sad, terrible, depressing stories or because our media chooses to focus on them. Or, perhaps more accurately, both. Either way, I write this to encourage anyone to instead focus on the good. Good and bad both co-exist, both are always present. In any one moment, you always have both Perspective and how you choose to view the world around you are.
At the end of the day, be kind to yourself. Be kind to others. Realize when someone is unkind to you — that’s about them. Not you. You get what you give, choose to be kind in an unkind world.
I’ll end the Article by quoting Gandhi ” Be the change you want to see in the world”
“Remember there’s no such thing as a small act of kindness. Every act creates a ripple with no logical end.” – Scott Adams
“We do not need magic to change the world, we carry all the power we need inside ourselves already we have the power to imagine better” J.K Rowling.
And one last quote from Cinderella movie ” Where there is kindness, there is goodness and where there is goodness, there is magic”
Kindness is a magical spell that can change the world into a better one for all of us.