"Are you saying you'll flunk us if we don't change the world?"
"Well, no. But you might just scrape by with a C."
-- Actors Haley Joel Osment and Kevin Spacey
In the 2000 film "Pay it Forward," a young boy takes his teacher's assignment to heart by resolving to do a good deed for three unsuspecting people, who must then do something nice for three others. By the movie's end, his circle of influence is ever widening as the goodwill spreads.
Of course, these kindnesses are not limited to the big screen but are seen all around us. This week, business writer Anna Marie Kukec highlighted a program started by the marketing director at Deer Park Town Center who felt inspired to continue the momentum of giving usually reserved for the holidays. In it, employees and customers registered online to pick up a free mall gift card worth between $10 and $50 and were encouraged to hand it to someone at the Deer Park center.
The results have been heartwarming, said Regina Verdico, the mastermind of the program, and she has the stories to prove it, as givers were asked to email her about their experience.
A fine piece of marketing genius, some might say. There's no doubt it may have helped the mall's bottom line, Verdico admits, but, "It was always intended to be much more than a marketing program," she told Kukec. "We love that our shoppers are waiting in line for the movies and a customer with a pay-it-forward gift card is contributing to a random person's family experience."
Who can knock a program that encourages others to reach out to benefit strangers? Efforts like these often go unnoticed or unrewarded, and in a perfect world, that wouldn't matter. But we are far from perfect, and giving recognition for good deeds might be what's needed to motivate others to do them.
To that end, we say it's time to get back into the habit. The economy is improving, and businesses and individuals may be in a better financial position to give. The recession isn't over for many people who could use a lift.
"Pay it forward" and "random acts of kindness" movements have been around for decades, and some have sprung from tragedy. After the Sandy Hook shootings in December, Sheri Warren of Gurnee was at a drive-through picking up a quick meal. "When I drove up to the window to pay, the young man said, 'That lady in front of you paid for your lunch.' He handed me a note that she had written that said, 'In memory of the 26 victims in Newtown, CT. I am committing 26 acts of kindness. This is Act #1 in memory of James Mattioli. Please keep it going.' "
Warren, who wrote about her experience in a letter to the editor, said there was no signature left. "I nearly cried rereading this note," she wrote.
While Verdico's company invested $6,000 in the program, giving does not need to be expensive. Story after story emailed to her testified of the goodness that was felt by both giver and receiver, one $10 gift card at a time. All of us can do a small part to change the world, and none should wait for the holidays or the next tragedy
Do not settle for a C.