She Paid It Forward

November 21, 2011


One of my favorite movies is “Pay It Forward.”  A story about young Trevor McKinney, troubled by his mother’s alcoholism and fears of his abusive but absent father, is caught up by an intriguing assignment from his new social studies teacher, Mr. Simonet.  The assignment: think of something to change the world and put it into action.  Trevor conjures the notion of paying a favor not back, but forward–repaying good deeds not with payback, but with new good deeds done to three new people. 

Many people that I know think that this movie describes the concept of karma…your own stuff coming back on you.  I disagree.  I think the movie describes acts of Amazing Grace: The practice of giving to others unmerited favor.

I experienced one of those “pay it forward” moments yesterday…not as the giver…but as the receiver.   For the last two months my wife and I have struggled to find respite care for our boys.  Respite allows Linda and I to spend some quality time alone reconnecting and strengthening our bond as husband and wife.  The challenge is that Florida, which ranks right around 48th in its services to families who have children with disabilities, has not been able to help us.

So for the last two months we have set out on our own to find a qualified respite provider.  No luck…until last night.  Linda was put in touch with a woman named Norma.  Norma is a former special education teacher who had been terminated from employment due to budget cutbacks.  Not able to find other employment and having to live off of the balance of her credit card she turned to a church for financial and spiritual support.  The church?  First Baptist Orlando.

Norma shared with us last night that FBO helped her to get back on her feet during one of the most difficult periods of her life.  Today she is  back on her feet and employed full time!  Somehow or other she got wind of the fact that we were desperately seeking a qualified respite provider, that we were members of First Baptist Orlando, and that we were involved in providing respite to other families (Buddy Break).  For these reasons, she shared with us that she would come to our house on Saturdays…after having already worked a 40-hour week…and take care of our boys so that Linda and I could go out and spend time together!

Norma simply shared that, “…she was very grateful that First Baptist had been there for her during a time of need and that she wanted to “pay it forward.”

One thing is for sure: when you throw a pebble into a lake and it hits the water, you see the ripples caused by that pebble move across the water in an ever widening circle.   That’s why:  your acts of love towards others, even the smallest ones, can sometimes cause a ripple effect that in turn creates acts of grace for others that you may never know even existed.    

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About Michael Woods

Christ-follower, husband, chocoholic, and peanut-butter lover! I'm a father to triplet boys...each on the autism spectrum.

View all posts by Michael Woods


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