Pay It Forward Essay Help

Young Trevor McKinney, troubled by his mother's alcoholism and fears of his abusive but absent father, is caught up by an intriguing assignment from his new social studies teacher, Mr. Simonet. The assignment: think of something to change the world and put it into action. Trevor conjures the notion of paying a favor not back, but forward--repaying good deeds not with payback, but with new good deeds done to three new people. Trevor's efforts to make good on his idea bring a revolution not only in the lives of himself, his mother and his physically and emotionally scarred teacher, but in those of an ever-widening circle of people completely unknown to him.

—Jim Beaver

A school social studies assignment leads to social changes that spread from city-to-city. Assigned to come up with some idea that will improve mankind, a young boy decides that if he can do three good deeds for someone and they in turn can "pay it forward" and so forth, positive changes can occur. What appears to initially be a failure, is indeed a success that is not immediately known but is traced backwards by a reporter who is a benefactor. The initial recipients of the boy are a drug addict, his badly scarred school teacher, and a classmate who is constantly bullied by his peers. While physically and mentally scarred by past events, the teacher is not the only one bearing scars. The young boy fears his mother's fate, particularly at his brutal, alcoholic father's hands. The mother also bears scars from her childhood with a homeless, alcoholic mother.

—John Sacksteder

I wrote this as a reflection piece for a course on transformative coaching I am taking up.  It’s about the movie: Pay It Forward.  Sharing the insights and lessons learned.


We’re all in this world to pay it forward. In little ways, in big ways, in ways we won’t ever know or can’t even begin to imagine.

In a nutshell, it was about people making an effort to “pay it forward.” Helping other people in a big way, and in turn, those being helped “paying it forward” by helping other people.  All the while struggling with what life throws at them, and what life has given them in the past.

It was an interesting movie, to say the least. I didn’t like the ending. But what I did like was how the different characters struggled with what they’ve got.

What I liked even more, was how the characters started to move forward, change their lives, even by a little, and pay it forward as well, all with what they’ve got.

Trevor, the main character of the story, of course played the part of the prime mover in the movie, showing us that the strength and courage to do new things, and to actually do something about it, is what gets change going.

It was also interesting to note what got him moving in the first place.

It was because “everything… sucks.”

And I take it from the movie that he didn’t want life to stay that way.

Have you ever had a “everything… sucks” moment? A moment where you hit rock-bottom, that life couldn’t get any worse.  Or you just want so badly for your life to take a turn for the better.

“Everything… sucks.” And Trevor decided to do something about it.  Which sparks off a chain of events that he couldn’t have foreseen or imagined.

Arlene, Trevor’s Mom, showed in the movie that we make mistakes sometimes.  In the heat of the moment, we do things we don’t mean, and we hurt others, even ourselves.  Yet, we can also rise above that, and find it in ourselves to forgive ourselves, and in turn, forgive others.

She also showed us how we can be blinded by how we want things to turn out, by our expectation of how our lives will go, and how the people in our lives act.  And how we expect others to make us happy.

Arlene was waiting for Ricky, Trevor’s dad, to return, give up drinking, and give her that happily married life she’s been looking for.  It’s not so easy, and it doesn’t work that way.

Eugene, or Mr. Simonet, also shows us how we can be blinded.  This time by past experiences and hurts.

And how he, or we, can continue to live life through those lenses.  A life bound by our beliefs of how others might see us or judge us, because of our scars, both literally and figuratively.

And how we put up our routines, and walls, to feel safe, to avoid being hurt, like how we’ve been hurt in the past.

And then there’s Chris, the reporter, who after losing his car in the opening scenes, gets a brand new Jaguar handed to him, with the instructions to “pay it forward.”  He almost lost it trying to give back the Jaguar, or finding out why he was just given one.

He shows us how we don’t believe we are worthy of blessings and graces.  That we are also not deserving of help. That we didn’t work for it.  Or we didn’t pay for it.

That we aren’t humble enough to just say: “Yes, Thank you.”

But all of them, showed the power of the human spirit.  Showed the power of positive actions, and how that changes one’s life, as well as others.

All of them had their own struggles.  All of them their own hurts and pains, traumas and experiences.

All of them decided to pay it forward and to act to help others.

And all of the scenes and interrelationships in the movie, reminds me that we all have an effect on each other, and it’s up to us, to me, if I will be a positive influence on others.

With how we interact and treat other people, we are essentially “paying it forward.”  We may not always pay forward what helps other people, but the effort is also important.

The effort to help other people, and to share what positive things they have, had the power to change other people’s lives.

It had the power to change their own lives as well.  Through the course of the movie, they became more at peace with themselves, more honest, stronger, yet sensitive.

Life can get sucky.  There will come moments in time when “life sucks.”  That’s a fact.  It’s up to us what we make of it, and how we weather those times.

I’ve come across a quote, though I don’t remember where:

“When life gets hard, don’t ask for life to get easier, ask that you become a better person instead.”

That simple looking all year assignment given by Mr. Simonet at first day of class, got Trevor thinking, and his actions had such a profound effect on a lot of people.

Trevor wanted to help people, but he didn’t end up doing everything for them.  He trusted them to use what they received, and help themselves as well.

Trevor wasn’t exactly sure what would happen, or how things would turn out, but he believed in them.

That believing in people, can somehow get them believing in themselves.  That this can help them find the power within themselves to make choices that will change their lives.

Believing in others makes such a huge difference.  People have it in them to solve their problems, and people have what it takes to take control of their life, and change it for the better.

Even Jerry, the homeless man Trevor fed and let in his house, was able to help someone else towards the end of the movie.  He had it in him all along, and what he got from Trevor was a kickstart to get him going and believing in himself.

People tend to forget what we do to them, and tend to remember what we made them feel.

We’re all in this world to pay it forward. In little ways, in big ways, in ways we won’t ever know or can’t even begin to imagine.

And it all begins with believing.



Picture from the Motion Picture: Pay It Forward (2000), Warner Bros. Pictures

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