Every year the date of September 5 has been declared to be the International Day of Charity and wouldn’t it be the perfect time to Pay it Forward and help your neighbors in need? Most everyone knows what the term "Pay It Forward" means but for those who don’t, it’s doing something good for someone after someone has done something nice for you. You don’t repay the person who helped you. You pass that help on to someone else in need. You pay it forward to another. If someone helps you change a tire, you might shovel the snow from someone’s driveway.
The whole concept was made popular by a movie released in 2000 titled, Pay It Forward, starring Kevin Spacey and Helen Hunt. In the movie a young boy has a school assignment in which he has to figure out how to change the world. He creates the Pay It Forward method and sets in motion a chain reaction of good deeds.
To keep with the concept of Pay It Forward, you have to do something nice for someone without expecting any sort of repayment from that person. It's done as a selfless act with the only gratification being that you’ve done something for someone. If you want to do something to Pay It Forward and don’t know anyone off hand who you can help, there are organizations that will let you Pay It Forward anonymously by donating money or performing good deeds without gaining any recognition. The receiver of the good deed is then told to do something for someone else and so on, thereby keeping the Pay It Forward custom going.
You don’t have to give large sums of money or put forth a lot of effort. It can be simple and easy. Pay for the meal for the person behind you at the drive thru. Hold the door for someone. Carry someone’s packages to their car. Mow your neighbor’s lawn. Buy somebody a cup of coffee. It’s easy. You can do something for free, spend a little money, or you can donate to an organization to help someone in need that you may not know needs it.
This practice, though made popular in 2000, has been in practice since the 1700’s when Ben Franklin lent Benjamin Webb some money. In a letter to Webb, Franklin told him to not repay him directly but instead to help some other honest man in need and help that man by paying him the money to help him out. So you see, this isn’t a recent thing. When you help your neighbor, it instills a sense of the common man helping one another and it also feels good in your heart.
The Gatlinburg and Cobbly Nob fires of November 2016 put many, many families in a situation which put them in need of the simplest things. Water, food, clothing and a place to stay were top priorities. Knoxville Pays It Forward, inc. delivered a 12 foot box truck full of relief supplies to Gatlinburg within less than 24 hours of the call for needing help. Knoxville Pays It Forward, Inc. receives no government funding, relying on fundraisers and donations to help individuals in their time of need. Not only did they assist with relief for the fire victims, they continue to help the community, paying it forward in other ways such as providing relief for other fires, giving Christmas gifts to needy families, supplying the elderly with pet food when they can’t afford it, donating to Children’s Hospital and Assisted Living Centers. By donating, or even attending a fund raiser held by Knoxville Pays It Forward Inc., you are giving of yourself and even though you are donating anonymously, you are paying it forward in your own way.
The International Day of Charity is observed all over the world with the hopes that people will donate to not only their favorite charity but also help improve people’s lives. The United Nations created the holiday, choosing September 5th as the date to honor the memory of Saint Teresa of Calcutta who passed away on this date. Mother Teresa dedicated her entire life to charity work and this international holiday commemorates her selflessness and dedication. The holiday is celebrated every year and the work of world-wide charities is brought into the spotlight while people are encouraged to donate money or spend their time helping others and to raise awareness about charity issues worldwide.
To some charity begins at home and if you’re so inclined you can find many ways to help in your own hometown or your own county. When you contribute, whether money or time, whatever you do enhances mutual understanding among people concerning simple needs that haven’t been met in your community. Poverty is an issue in other countries but it is also an issue on our home front.
Many people in Sevier and the surrounding counties have contributed so much to the needs of fire-stricken families and the outpouring of love and help has been amazing. The fire began November 28, 2016 and by the time it was extinguished 2,400 home and businesses were severely damaged or completely destroyed leaving some 2,000+ people homeless. But the people of the Great Smoky Mountains know how to rise together and Pay It Forward. Everyone pitched in and helped out and that is solid proof that they are Gatlinburg Strong. People like Steve Tanner, owner of Super Suds Coin Laundry, who allowed anyone to wash their clothes and furnished everything free of charge to the only laundry left standing for a full weekend show what it means to have a charitable heart and to give back of himself. The definition of Paying It Forward. Another example was the Wear a Pair/Give a Pair drive held in Knoxville on December 24th 2016 where if you wear a pair of pajamas, you give a pair of pajamas which were slated to go to the needy in Sevier County due to the fires. There were 14 drop off stations around the city and truly East Tennessee became Smokies Strong. It doesn’t matter whether you donate your time to help out or send in some money to a charity, just help your neighbor and join in on International Charity Day on September 5th. It could even be something as easy as buying a Smokies Strong t-shirt. The money goes back to the fire victims.
The whole purpose of this day, International Charity Day, other than honoring Mother Teresa and her charitable works, is to get people talking, create a dialogue and get people involved in helping others in any way they can. No matter what your choice is, get involved. It will raise your spirit to a higher level when you Pay It Forward and help others. And then, by your example, others will pass it on, Paying It Forward because you did.