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Pay the Love Forward

The phrase, “Pay It Forward” is popular today. It captures the spirit of “one good turn deserves another.” In case you were curious about its introduction into modern parlance, here is a little background:

“Paying it forward is a third-party beneficiary concept that involves doing something good for someone in response to a good deed done on your behalf or a gift you received. When you pay it forward, however, you don’t repay the person who did something nice for you. Instead, you do something nice for someone else. For example, if someone changes your tire while you are stranded on the highway, you might shovel your elderly neighbor’s walkway after a snow has fallen.”

“The concept comes from a 2000 movie Pay It Forward, starring Kevin Spacey and Helen Hunt. In this movie, a young boy, played by Haley Joel Osment, is given a school assignment that requires him to find some way to change the world. He develops the pay it forward concept, setting forth a chain reaction of good deeds. Additionally, the 1951 book “Between Planets” by Robert A. Heinlein contained the concept and is actually considered the first work to popularize the idea.” (1)

Well, not exactly. It would be nice to think that a modern novel pioneered the idea, and that a popular movie made it famous, but evidence is available to point to an earlier starting point: Ancient Greece!

“Pay it forward was used as a key plot element in the denouement of a New Comedy play by Menander, Dyskolos (a title which can be translated as “The Grouch”). Dyskolos was a prizewinning play in ancient Athens in 317 BC; however, the text of the play was lost and it was not re-published until 1957.” (2)
The history of this idea gets even more fascinating as we move into Colonial times in America:

“The concept was rediscovered and described by Benjamin Franklin, in a letter to Benjamin Webb dated April 25, 1784:

‘I do not pretend to give such a deed; I only lend it to you. When you […] meet with another honest Man in similar Distress, you must pay me by lending this Sum to him; enjoining him to discharge the Debt by a like operation, when he shall be able, and shall meet with another opportunity. I hope it may thus go thro’ many hands, before it meets with a Knave that will stop its Progress. This is a trick of mine for doing a deal of good with a little money.’” (2)
In the 19th century, one of our greatest poets and philosophers portrayed the idea in one of his famous essays:

“Ralph Waldo Emerson, in his 1841 essay Compensation, wrote: ‘In the order of nature we cannot render benefits to those from whom we receive them, or only seldom. But the benefit we receive must be rendered again, line for line, deed for deed, cent for cent, to somebody.’” (2)

Clearly, the ethic of passing on the benefits that have been given to us, is woven throughout our culture. More than that, it is a motivator for making one of the most important financial decisions of a lifetime: the purchase of life insurance. Former NFL great Boomer Esiason made this point very emphatically in a recent article in Forbes magazine. He is serving as an advocate for this product because he believes in it so strongly.

In the Forbes interview with writer Tim Maurer, he talks movingly about the death of his mom when he was young, and the ensuing struggles of his family. Yet he also conveys the family dedication that has led him to secure the future of his own family and business. Here is how Mr. Maurer describes Boomer’s commitment to “pay forward” the love and caring he was given:

“Today, however, Boomer’s passion for football seems eclipsed only by his desire to pass on the life and financial lessons that he has learned through experience. So when Boomer was asked to be the spokesperson for Life Insurance Awareness Month by the LIFE Foundation, it was an easy decision. ‘This absolutely fits what has happened to me in my life for a number of reasons,’ Esiason told me as he opened the window into his life beyond the gridiron. ‘When I became an NFL football player and decided to have kids in the early 90’s, I recognized that I didn’t want to have happen to my kids what happened to us, as [we were] struggling when I grew up.’”

“Further compounding the importance of life insurance for Boomer and his wife, Cheryl, is the fact that their son, Gunnar, has cystic fibrosis, a genetic disease that primarily attacks the lungs and often compounds the impact of other illnesses. Day-to-day medical expenses are high, and the cost of finding a cure, higher still. So in addition to the $100 million raised by the Boomer Esiason Foundation to benefit all CF patients, Esiason sees life insurance as vital to ensuring that his son has the financial resources necessary to continue his push toward a cure. ‘If I don’t protect [Gunnar’s] future and I don’t protect my family’s future, then if we ever found ourselves in the situation that I found myself in when I was seven, it would be an unmitigated disaster and my kids and my wife would not be able to sustain the life that we’re fortunate to live now.’” (3)

(1)”What Does “Pay It Forward” Mean?” WiseGEEK. N.p., n.d. Web. 09 Oct. 2013. <http://www.wisegeek.org/what-does-pay-it-forward-mean.htm>.

(2)”Pay It Forward.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 29 Sept. 2013. Web. 09 Oct. 2013. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pay_it_forward>.

(3)Maurer, Tim. “Boomer Esiason: NFL Great Turned Life Insurance Advocate.” Forbes. Forbes Magazine, 12 Sept. 2013. Web. 09 Oct. 2013.