Friday, May 23, 2014

Pay It Forward

     I remember when my folks retired to Florida, back in the 1980s, we saw a used-car lot out on Route 1 with a big sign that advertised: "Buy Here! Pay Here!"

     We thought it was a joke. Isn't that the way everybody buys things? We couldn't figure out what the sign was offering that was so special. But the sign was up for as long as my parents lived there.

     (We later found out that "Buy Here! Pay Here!" is a way used-car salespeople sell cars to people with bad credit. The dealer extends credit to the buyer, so the buyer doesn't have to go to a bank where they will likely get turned down for the car loan.)

     The other night B and I were driving home from our dancing class, and for some reason I thought of the term, "Pay it forward."

     So I asked B, "What does 'pay it forward' mean, in your mind?"

     "Someone does you a favor," she replied. "You can't pay them back, so you do someone else a favor instead."

     I was ruminating (B was driving, so I was ruminating) on my last post about how we pay for our children's college tuition, and might help to pay tuition for our grandchildren as well. Your parents paid for your college tuition. You can't pay them back, so you pay it forward by paying for your own children. My kids are finished with college, and I don't have any grandchildren (yet?), and so it's easy for me to suggest that people chip in for other people's college tuition.

     Maybe I do my part by paying school taxes. Our school district just passed its 2014-'15 budget, spending a little over $26,000 per student. I have two kids who went through the school system; but I wasn't paying $52,000 a year in school tax. Other taxpayers were paying for my kids to get educated. Now it's my turn to pay it forward ... help pay for other people's kids to go to school.

     I guess everything we do for our children is paying it forward from our parents. Except we try to do it better, don't we?

     Last week I finished up my first year as a volunteer tutor at our local community college. I'm paying it forward to these other kids for all the help and advice and favors done for me when I was a younger. Not that there were very many that I remember. My parents were pretty hands off, even remote. My high school was a hostile place, and nobody helped me there. I had a professor in college, and a boss early in my career, who were mentors to me to some extent.

     I think some other people tried to help me out when I was a kid, but I found it hard to accept help . . . and even harder to ask. I see a difference in my kids. My daughter asks for a lot of help, and gets it. My son is much more reluctant to ask; and he seems to be more on his own. Maybe women find it easier to ask for help?

     The kids who come into our tutoring center at the community college are asking for help, and they need it, for most of them are from economically disadvantaged families. Some of these kids get more out the center than others; but they are all trying -- trying to get an education, trying to get a better job, trying to grab a piece of the American dream that some people think is fading away.

     I'm sure there's one thing they know that I never did -- what "Buy Here! Pay Here!" means. And so regardless of what our own backgrounds are, I think we owe it to them to Pay It Forward.

     There's a movie called Pay It Forward starring Kevin Spacey and Helen Hunt. It came out in 2000 to mixed reviews -- by and large critics thought it was sentimental and syrupy while the audiences liked it. It's not on Netflix, but maybe I'll go down to the library and see if they have a DVD. Because I think we all need less "Pay Here!" and more "Pay It Forward."

15 comments:

DJan said...

When I visited my brother earlier this year, I was in the car with him when we went through the Starbucks drive-through. He ordered and paid for our drinks and said he wanted to pick up the order for the car behind us.

I asked why he did it, and he said it had happened to him recently and he wanted to "pay it forward" and that it had become a habit. I think it's a great idea!

Tabor said...

I think in this time of stress and anger and political division a little more pay it forward puts oil on the choppy waters and is good for us and for them.

Anonymous said...

One of the best things about growing older has been having some extra funds to share with others. As a cancer survivor, I believe I could never come close to giving away as much as I've been given! Investing in others (especially kids)has made hubby and me very happy!Tom, we don't have grandkids (yet)either, so we give to a great local charity that helps young families in need. When Christmas morning dawns, we imagine the faces of all the little ones and their moms and dads who have gifts to open. It's ironic, but hubby and I don't even buy each other gifts, because there's nothing more we need. Giving to others in need, has helped to fulfill deep needs within us. Thanks for this post!

Stephen Hayes said...

I remember that movie. It WAS sentimental but I liked it anyway. Yes, we all need to pay if forward for the next generation. If future generations didn't exist then what was the point of our existence?

Friko said...

You seem to have the ideal attitude. Positively Christian! (I am not religious)

If we all did a little of this wouldn’t the world be a nice place? Unfortunately, there are more ‘keep-it-all-to-yourself’ folk around.

schmidleysscribblins.com said...

All the years we paid into Social Security David and I paid the full amount each year. I knew at the time the money was not being safely invested somewhere, it was being used to pay for the benefits of those who went before us. Today our benefits are paid through government borrowing and printing money. I'm not sure 'pay it forward' works if the Federal government is involved.

Mom used to say money doesn't grow on trees. I think she was right.

Pay it forward works with small things. The nurse who helped me put on my socks after hip surgery told me she helped older people because someday she would be one.

As for kids. Give freely because if you expect something in return you may be disappointed. This younger generation and the younger side of the baby boom may not have the resources.

Douglas said...

When my parents moved us to south Florida back in 1956, there was a small patio furniture store on US 1 just south of Hallendale Beach Boulevard. It read "LOST OUR LEASE! BIG SALE! EVERYTHING MUST GO!" That sign remained there for the next 10 years. As I recall, we bought a couple of chaise lounges from that place. As for your sign, it also reminded me of the "bootstrapping" a used car dealer performed when I sought to purchase a 1961 MG Magnette sedan. As a sailor, I had no money and no credit rating. First, the dealership loaned me enough for the down payment ($90) and then that loan assured HFC that I was an acceptable risk for the balance and they loaned me the balance (for which I paid 6% on the unpaid balance each month!)... but I had a car!

Tom Sightings said...

Douglas, Good for you! DJan, Good for your brother! And Friko, yeah on some days; but on other days, not so much ... whatcha gonna do?

gigihawaii said...

I never think of Pay It Forward. If I have the money, I'll give it to you. If not, I won't.

Kirk said...

I've recently been a member of Couchsurfing, whose members stay for free in other members' houses while traveling. I think of it as a another pay-it-forward arrangement. I host travelers chez moi, and in return am privileged to be hosted when I travel.

Anonymous said...

This country is full of sweet and kind people..I choose to help those in battered women's shelters and food pantry..Many in our country don't have food after working like hell all week and month long, they pay their bills and feed the spouse.partner.children then no food for them, oh, my goodness sakes..we don't need things, just had my 66th birthday and felt blessed, have a hubs of 40 years on the 27th who has been a joy and loving human being for those 40 years and a dear daughter, she doesn't think like we do, but is so sweet and kind to me..She helps others out all the time, she is not married not children so she babysits in NYC for her friends who have only one child the kiddos scream when she leaves so she makes sure they are napping when she dashes out, she stays with them all day and or night..she thinks they don't get to see much of their Moms and Dads NYC has got to be the most frazzeled city in all of the usa and their parents need some time to just be themselves!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I see many unable to shop at the local grocery store my hubs retired from I will pick a harried mother of a baby who is picking up food for the baby and herself, never will I pay for someone with beer, wine, spirits, cigarettes, but if the cart has veggies, fruits, diapers( not brand name) and milk and or formula, food that is wonderful for the body and mind I give the cashier a $20.00 and let the recipient know someone paid for some of the food, lots of times it pays for the whole tiny cart, the look on the face of the person getting the food with their coupons and holding their baby lovingly is worth a millon to me..Our only was so stunning as a baby & I like to think now people would walk up to me and give me money for her and one time when we were on the move to our present home of nearly 36 years a fellow said and his wife your baby is unusual and gave my husband a $50.00 bill for her future education, she snagged a huge scholarship and still worked for the president of the university for about $18.00 and hour she did and does well..She had an old soul now and actually looks much younger than her peers..she is the delight of our lives..I think one had to consider others in one's life we are not living all alone on an island no we are not, to much is given much should be given to others..ciao!

Anonymous said...

This country is full of sweet and kind people..I choose to help those in battered women's shelters and food pantry..Many in our country don't have food after working like hell all week and month long, they pay their bills and feed the spouse.partner.children then no food for them, oh, my goodness sakes..we don't need things, just had my 66th birthday and felt blessed, have a hubs of 40 years on the 27th who has been a joy and loving human being for those 40 years and a dear daughter, she doesn't think like we do, but is so sweet and kind to me..She helps others out all the time, she is not married not children so she babysits in NYC for her friends who have only one child the kiddos scream when she leaves so she makes sure they are napping when she dashes out, she stays with them all day and or night..she thinks they don't get to see much of their Moms and Dads NYC has got to be the most frazzeled city in all of the usa and their parents need some time to just be themselves!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I see many unable to shop at the local grocery store my hubs retired from I will pick a harried mother of a baby who is picking up food for the baby and herself, never will I pay for someone with beer, wine, spirits, cigarettes, but if the cart has veggies, fruits, diapers( not brand name) and milk and or formula, food that is wonderful for the body and mind I give the cashier a $20.00 and let the recipient know someone paid for some of the food, lots of times it pays for the whole tiny cart, the look on the face of the person getting the food with their coupons and holding their baby lovingly is worth a millon to me..Our only was so stunning as a baby & I like to think now people would walk up to me and give me money for her and one time when we were on the move to our present home of nearly 36 years a fellow said and his wife your baby is unusual and gave my husband a $50.00 bill for her future education, she snagged a huge scholarship and still worked for the president of the university for about $18.00 and hour she did and does well..She had an old soul now and actually looks much younger than her peers..she is the delight of our lives..I think one had to consider others in one's life we are not living all alone on an island no we are not, to much is given much should be given to others..ciao!

Anonymous said...

I meant to say if one only thinks of oneself what a dull person one would be...Our only is the sweetest and kindest to others cause she saw her mom and dad be that way to others, she is an only child and never had to go without love, affection and spoiling of those emotions and the only girl grandchild up until nearly the time her grandmother passed from this earth so she was really special in our families..When one feels adored with love and affection one can certainly love and spoil others who don't get anything in this big old world, she has traveled and always says to me her momma that in other countries family, familia is all important, she doesn't see that a lot in the USA except her familia...I think we should think of others as the good Lord did in his commandments and his teachings, just my opinion and no I don't attend church I think KARMA is really what it is all about in life...ciao!

Anonymous said...

I meant to say if one only thinks of oneself what a dull person one would be...Our only is the sweetest and kindest to others cause she saw her mom and dad be that way to others, she is an only child and never had to go without love, affection and spoiling of those emotions and the only girl grandchild up until nearly the time her grandmother passed from this earth so she was really special in our families..When one feels adored with love and affection one can certainly love and spoil others who don't get anything in this big old world, she has traveled and always says to me her momma that in other countries family, familia is all important, she doesn't see that a lot in the USA except her familia...I think we should think of others as the good Lord did in his commandments and his teachings, just my opinion and no I don't attend church I think KARMA is really what it is all about in life...ciao!

Laiura Lee Carter said...

Tom:
You hit the nail on the head here! I spent five years in counseling in my 30s learning that it was really OK to ask for help sometimes. The younger generation believes everything is owed to them.