Do you remember the “pay it forward” movement that exploded on the national scene a few years ago? If I remember correctly, it started with some loyal customers at Starbucks coffee houses. It soon spread to many other restaurants, food markets, even retail outlets. The “pay it forward” craze was when the person immediately ahead of you in line would pay for her coffee and then yours, as well. And then you would do likewise for the person in line behind you, and so on, and so on. I thought it was a kind gesture and wonderful testament to the goodness of the human spirit.
I reminisced the “pay it forward” movement while thinking about all the people who have invested in my life and have help me “become.” Today I am thinking about Rick and Carol and Eli and Donna and Doug and…just too many to name! Because of those people and many, many others, I find a deep sense of satisfaction and joy when opportunities to ‘pay it forward’ happen. To help others “become.”
With that in mind, I want to share a beautiful story with you about the “power” of paying it forward. It’s an excerpt from a speech delivered by William R. Brody to the graduating class of John Hopkins University on May 26, 2005. I hope it touches your soul as it did mine.
There is a man named Sandy Greenberg. In his youth, Sandy was a very good student, but he came from a poor family. He went to Columbia University on scholarship. There he met his roommate who also was receiving financial aid. While he was a sophomore at Columbia University, Sandy contracted an eye disease that eventually proved to be glaucoma, but the trouble was, it wasn’t detected early enough. As a result, he became legally blind and something else happened to Sandy. He said that when he lost his sight, his roommate would read his textbooks to him, every night. And as a result, Sandy went on to graduate with honors. He got a Fulbright Scholarship, and went off to study at Oxford. He was still quite poor, but he had managed to save about five hundred dollars as he went along. His roommate, meanwhile, also went on to graduate school. One day, Sandy got a call from his former roommate saying, “Sandy, I am really unhappy; I really don’t like being in graduate school, and I don’t want to do this.” So, Sandy asked, “Well, what do you want to do?”
His former roommate told him, “Sandy, I really love to sing. I have a high school friend who plays the guitar. We would really like to try our hand in the music business. We need to make a promo record, and in order to do that I need $500.” Sandy Greenberg took all his life savings and sent it to his roommate. Sandy thought: he made my life; I need to help make his life.
Each of you, in your own lives, will be faced with challenges, roadblocks, and problems that you didn’t anticipate or expect. How you are able to deal with adversity will be influenced, to no small extent, by how you deal with others along the way. What you get will depend a lot on what you give and that’s the end of the story of doing well, by doing good. Ah! I almost forgot. You probably are wanting to know who Sandy’s roommate was. I think you’ve heard of him. Sandy’s roommate was a fellow by the name of Art Garfunkel, and he teamed up with another musician by the name of Paul Simon. That $500 helped them cut a record that eventually became “The Sounds of Silence.”
What a wonderful, beautiful story about paying it forward! And a great speech, too. Well done, Mr. Brody. Well done. When you pay it forward, you just never fully know the outcome of your generosity. So, who will be the recipient of your “paying it forward” today?
Glad to be your transitional pastor, First Christian Church. You are a blessing.