Tuesday, December 28, 2010
In the 2000 movie “Pay it Forward” Haley Joel Osment played a boy, so desperate to detach from his world with his alcoholic mother played by Helen Hunt….
“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.” Written by Jim Beaver
I was touched by this movie on a personal level as well as a larger sense that we have such a sense of euphoria when we help others without expecting anything in return. Scientist have indentified a hormone called Oxytocin as being responsible for this feeling calling it “The Cuddle Hormone” because hugs actually increase the levels in our brains. Hmmmm the more we deconstruct the less we can answer but who put it there? For my years and years as a musician I’ve donated and given my time and talents to non-profits and causes to help raise money or exposure or bring some emotional, spiritual assistance that only music can do. It just always seemed the right thing to do.
Recently a fan, and subsequent friend, made my friend Wayne Crawford a beautiful blanket that was southwestern in design and soft as down. She knew from my posts and notes that he has lost so much weight from pancreatic cancer and chemotherapy that his own body couldn’t quite produce enough heat to keep him warm in the seven hours of chemo and cold winter nights. She sent a gift of money as well for me to buy something for myself at our local coop. We were both touched deeply. Such is the case that when you give people a reason, a goal to behave unselfishly to help another human they usually do and we have both been overwhelmed by the outpouring. Care giving form Wayne has become a 24/7 deal meaning I’ve cancelled so many gigs and other income sources knowing it is just what you do for family or friends. My basic needs are met thankfully. Income comes in from my TV, radio, satellite distributions, royalties, internet and CD sales and composing work but the big chunks of income from gigs and live CD sales is on hold—not that I am complaining. People have donated via PayPal, offered fund raisers, brought or made so many gifts, food or help that I am humbled. But there are others in much more need.
Recently folding laundry watching “It’s a Wonderful Life” I was moved at that last scene where everyone in town shows up to help Jimmy Stewart’s character. Just a coincidence that few days after my friend sent her loving gifts my door rang. A man, with his wife in the pick-up, asked if he could maybe have some of our Pecans to sell. He said they have five kids and his wife is pregnant with Triplets. Yikes. He said he lost his job two months ago and has no money for food or Christmas and that the food and keeping the heat on was more important than gifts. I said I was going to sell all the Pecans since the price is at almost an all-time high. The disappointment on his face was real and I said hey I do have some serious yard waste that needs to be taken to the dump would he be interested. He smiled so proud and asked if he could start now. I asked him to come back in two days when I would have a chance to help. He did and we worked over six hours raking, chopping, and hauling making three trips to the landfill. As we worked I got to know about him and him about me. I can’t help but take an interest in people being a songwriter. He asked if I was a college student and I thanked him for thinking me years younger than I am. When I told him I am musician he became excited and said how lucky I was and how lucky he was that he knocked on the door of a famous person. I assured him that wasn’t the case—that I was just a very hard-working guy cleaning up the yard so my friend can sell his home.
When we finished our final haul to the dump I gave him some money including the money my fan had sent. I “Paid it Forward” so to speak. He was elated and kept saying “God bless you.” I told him he already has. Tired, dusty, sore and exhausted I told Wayne all about it as I fixed dinner and he said, “That’s wonderful, I hope his family can have a good late Christmas.” We have been asked how people can help and I’ve directed them to the Pay it Forward Foundation a non-profit that gives to a charity you designate. I’ve designated a New Mexico Cancer organization that helps people going through treatment who can’t afford other necessities of treatment, in Wayne’s name. So it is really the same concept as when, as a boy I stopped to help fix the chain on someone’s bike or now when I play a concert to raise money for CASA, etc. The Law of Circulation is a way of thinking that everything you give returns and recycles; I like the idea of recycling kindness. Pay it circularly my friends.