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Pay it Forward

Pay it Forward

Have you ever thought about ways that you can be a blessing to other parents?

Way back in 317 BC a poet named Menander wrote a comedy called “The Grouch” (translated from the Greek). A major element of the plot was the concept of “pay it forward.”  It was an idea Benjamin Franklin promoted as well (as per a letter discovered from 1784): “I do not pretend to give such a deed; I only lend it to you. When you […] meet with another honest Man in similar distress, you must pay me by lending this sum to him; enjoining him to discharge the debt by a like operation, when he shall be able, and shall meet with another opportunity. I hope it may thus go thro’ many hands, before it meets with a knave that will stop its progress. This is a trick of mine for doing a deal of good with a little money.”

In 1998, just prior to the birth of my first son, our friends Tara and Mike invited us over to their home. When we arrived they presented us with a lovely, sturdy crib. “This is for you to borrow for the baby. We have kept it since our children were little, but now it is just sitting in the attic unused. When our teenagers grow older, marry, and have children of their own, yours will have outgrown the crib and we’ll take it back.”

What a blessing that was! A crib is an expensive purchase.

My son was born that July and the crib was well used. He also enjoyed the many gifts bestowed upon us by our other valued friends.

Soon my bride was expecting our second child. But that announcement was coupled with news of an impending 1,500-mile relocation due to my job.

Tara and Mike said, “Take the crib with you and ship it back when you are finished with it.”

When son number two (our last) outgrew the crib we investigated shipping it back to our friends. The cost was astronomical.

“Keep it,” Tara and Mike said. “Give it to the next family who needs it.  Pay it forward.”

What a great idea! We decided to do that with all the baby related things we were given or purchased. We didn’t put the items in a yard sale—we gave everything away to folks who needed them.

The only stipulation, “When you are finished with it, you must give it away to the next couple who needs it. Pay it forward.” The pattern was set; give it away to the next who needs it and they are to do the same—it must not be sold.

Some said, “But you could have sold it – you lost a great deal of money.”

We lost money, yes, but the gratitude and sometimes tears of joy we witnessed from our benefactors was priceless. I have no idea how far the ripples of the initial act of charity has spread but I know God is blessing the flow.

I was reminded of this just recently. Our storage area was still holding an item from our child-birthing years. My bride took it out and cleaned it. We passed on that milk pump to Sonja and David as they held their two-week-old baby. “Pay it forward,” I said. “Pay it forward.”

What could you pay forward to bless another parent?

By: Dave Trouten is the married father of two teenage boys and a Division Chair & Professor of Communication at Kingswood University.

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