Act of kindness gets paid forward

Members of Trinity Lutheran Church, from left, Bill Curtis of Greenbank, Sandy Nelson of Freeland, Don Allen of Greenbank and Pat Patterson of Langley take a moment Thursday evening to discuss their pay-it-forward experiences.  - Jennifer Conway
Members of Trinity Lutheran Church, from left, Bill Curtis of Greenbank, Sandy Nelson of Freeland, Don Allen of Greenbank and Pat Patterson of Langley take a moment Thursday evening to discuss their pay-it-forward experiences.
— image credit: Jennifer Conway

When was the last time you did something for someone with no strings attached, with no expectations that the favor would ever be returned?

The Rev. Jim Lindus, pastor of Trinity Lutheran Church in Freeland, is spreading the news of South Whidbey residents who are doing just that. A family that attends his church was inspired by the 2000 movie "Pay It Forward," which starred Kevin Spacey, Helen Hunt and Haley Joel Osment. "Pay it Forward" focused on changing the world one person at a time, in hopes that each act of kindness would multiply into many.

Lindus said the project started with that family's anonymous donation of $3,000 in December. Lindus said the family approached him with the proposal to use the money in a pay-it-forward experiment.

"They had a lot more joy knowing the $3,000 was out there, not just sitting in a bank account," said Lindus.

Lindus asked for several volunteers to come forward during church services in early December. Without knowing what they were getting into, 60 members of the congregation were each given an envelope containing $50.

Lindus challenged the volunteers to give the money to people they felt could benefit from the gesture, people they believed would try to "pay it forward" in the future.

Giving was harder

than it seems

In an interview this week, Lindus said some assignments have yet to be completed, while others have already reported back to him on how they gave their $50 away.

One couple who received $50 was moving out of the country the next day, so they took their money to pay it forward in Australia. Lindus said he has not heard yet whether the couple found someone to give the money to.

While some people found the prospect of giving the money away exciting, others were not thrilled they had offered to volunteer unknowingly.

"What do I do with this?" was Don Allen's thought when given the money. Allen said he had volunteered to come forward knowing Lindus had something up his sleeve.

"He's always doing stunts and stuff like this," he laughed.

One man wrote anonymously to Lindus: "When you passed out envelopes with $50 to be given to folks in need, I did not appreciate the task. Over the years I have learned to avoid those people who appear to have troubles, such as beggars on the streets or individuals who talk of nothing but their problems. So it was not easy to open my awareness to someone with honest need."

The same man later reported he gave his envelope to a man he met at Good Cheer in Langley. He overheard the man talking about a recent automobile accident in which his family had escaped from a burning car. The family's Christmas gifts were destroyed in the fire.

Some members of the congregation, Lindus said, were disappointed they hadn't volunteered, and made up their own Pay-It-Forward envelopes. Others added to the amount of money in the envelope, and still others made new envelopes after their first one had been given away.


Lindus said he has no idea how far the Pay It Forward concept is being continued.

"The seeds planted that morning began to pop up all over our region and all over the world," Lindus told his congregation March 9. "What we don't know is the second generation."

This week Lindus said Trinity didn't have any plans yet for a second Pay It Forward campaign.

"It wouldn't surprise me if we did do it again," Lindus said.

Perhaps the biggest theme of theproject is the apparent joy people received.

After giving money to a young mother of three children, one woman said she was glowing. The woman said she was in the restroom at JCPenney's in the Alderwood Mall when she saw the woman with her children. The children were not dirty, she said, but the wear on their clothes and stroller were apparent.

"I said I'd like to give her $50 to buy presents for her children. She said no, no she couldn't. I said I wanted to do it and gave her the $50, and said she could pass a kindness on to someone else some day. She started to cry, then I started to cry, gave her a hug and rushed out."

The feeling from the joy of giving inspired the woman to do it again someday. She expressed her gratitude to the original donors through Lindus.

"I was floating down the mall, just glowing, when I suddenly remembered it wasn't my glow," she said. "So now I'm passing this glow on to the person it really belongs to, the person that gave the money to the church. It was a wonderful glow. Someday I'm going to find my own $50 glow, when it's right, and pay it forward."

Some people took their envelopes and turned giving them away into a family project. When one family saw a homeless family in Tacoma, they knew they had found their recipients.

"We were all beaming with joy that we were able to make somebody else's Christmas a little more joyful," said the woman.

Another woman expressed how thankful she was for the opportunity after completing her assignment.

"Thank you, and the kind people who contributed the money, for giving me the opportunity to 'pay it forward.' I'll keep looking for people now, because there is another envelope in my purse, just in case."

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