“Pay it forward” has become a popular feel-good endeavor of late. Not a day goes by that I don’t read or hear a news story or view a Facebook post about someone buying coffee for the next person in line or paying the balance at a grocery store for someone who’s a little short on cash. The hardened skeptic in me wants to look at the motives of the “do-gooder” as self-serving, but I can’t quite bring myself to get there.
I see the joy in the face of the person who’s just shelled out a few dollars and can’t find it in me to condemn the act as self-congratulatory evidence that a person has just attempted to atone for his or her selfishness. The beneficiary in these scenarios seems to feel equal joy, but not so much in the gift as in the fact that it’s given.
My wife would probably say I am too prone to want to give too much to people of questionable deservedness. I turn away from plenty of people seeking a handout, but sometimes I just can’t turn away from a person who seems genuinely destitute and in need. That attitude can have a negative effect on limited personal resources, I’ll admit.
I’ve probably been swindled dozens of times by people who choose to sacrifice their dignity for money, rather than turn to hard work to earn it. But I think I’d rather that be the case than to think I regularly ignore people asking for, or simply needing, a helping hand. But sometimes I do. Maybe the practice of tithing allows people to get around, or to feel they have gotten around, that dilemma? I dunno, I’m just thinking.