Pay It Forward

Pay It Forward

One of my favorite figures, Ralph Waldo Emerson, wisely wrote, “In the order of nature we cannot render benefits to those from whom we receive them, or only seldom. But the benefit we receive must be rendered again, line for line, deed for deed, cent for cent, to somebody” and this is exactly what “paying it forward” is. Kant says that morality is not just doing the right thing by helping other people, but doing it for the right reasons as well: simply because it is the right thing to do. He holds true that for an action to be moral, it must be done out of a principle which can be applied to everyone equally, a maxim that can be willed to become a universal law. The movie and the book, Pay it Forward, progressively rises towards the moral standards of Kant as the characters come to understand the meaning of this movement and their duty to the world. I saw a bumper sticker the other day that said, “Think globally, act locally.” That is what the kids in Mr. Simonet’s class are really being assigned to do and that is what the Pay it Forward movement demonstrates. We are all connected to each other. The world may be broken but in watching and helping those around us for the right reason, the benefits spread worldwide.
Kant agrees that the world is broken, that the human condition is flawed or Trevor in the beginning says, “the world is shit.” Trevor looks at all the bad around him; the trailer homes, the bullies, all the starving homeless people. His mom is a drunk and working as a stripper, his dad is abusive and it is no mystery why an eleven year old would see all this and think the world sucks and there’s nothing he can do. When the children in Mr. Simonet’s class are given the assignment to “think of an idea to change our world and put it into action,” they whine saying it’s so “weird, bummer, hard.” But Mr. Simonet replies, “How about possible? The realm of possibility exists in each of you.” He forces them to think outside of their self-centered minds and...

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