Archived Story

SMC students pay it forward

Published 9:51am Friday, December 18, 2009

For 15 SMC students, a class project involved more than the typical college resources.
Students had to use humility, compassion and benevolence to complete the assignment.

“I wanted to give students a different perspective and for them to take pause,” said Cindy Koshar, instructor for the Direct Encounter with the Arts class.

“I wanted to open their eyes to how one small gift of good can change the whole world.”

Koshar’s project began with students watching the 2000 movie “Pay It Forward.”
The movie tells a story about a young boy who was given a class assignment from his social studies teacher to think of something that would change the world.

The young boy was then required to put into action his change.

“Since November is the season of giving, and often we need a reminder of how a hand up can make a monumental difference in someone’s life, I then assigned the project to have students pay if forward to three individuals and report back in December,” Koshar said.

“I’m just an optimist. I believe we can be a part of a better world.”

In addition to her class, Koshar invited Thom Cooper’s writing class to watch the movie on Nov. 4 and participate in the project.

Koshar’s students gathered last week for their individual class presentations.
As each student stood before their classmates, they described the 45 encounters they had as part of their goodwill project.

Some of the stories were humorous as students explained the reactions they received when trying to help out strangers, while other accounts brought tears to the eyes of those listening as their outpouring of generosity touched everyone.

Many of the 15 students chose people from their circle of family, friends, fellow students and co-workers to help.

Vicki Ferrell, a student in Koshar’s class, described her three acts of kindness.
While she gave a turkey to a family in need for Thanksgiving and volunteered to be a note taker for another student, her third pay it forward recipient was from within her household.

Ferrell opened up her home to a young girl who was having problems.

The girl had a troubled family life and did not know her biological father.

Ferrell has been in contact with the man, who has taken a paternity test to determine if he is the girl’s father. During initial conversation with the man, Ferrell said she learned he lost an infant son two years ago.

“I could not express to him how I felt for him having lost a child, but in some crazy sense, I felt like although this child would never replace the one he’d lost, that maybe by me cooperating with him, I was returning to him a daughter he never had,” Ferrell said.

Anna Green, another of Koshar’s students, described her three recipients, one of whom was a stranger.

“The other day I saw a woman on the side of the road in Mishawaka who was holding a sign that said ‘NEED HELP. (I) am a single mother, anything will help. God bless!’ Green said. “I was at a red light and was on my way Christmas shopping. I got to thinking, what would $20 mean to this mom? I decided that giving her a little could help her more than it could help me. I pulled around and gave her $20. She started crying. She said thank you and God bless. Words can’t describe how I felt.”

One of Green’s beneficiaries was the family of her best friend, who died in a car accident the same day she saw the movie.

Green choked back her emotions as she described how helping the family in their time of need resulted in her best friend’s father forgiving the young man who was driving the vehicle.
“This project showed me how even the smallest things make a monumental difference,” said Green. “Something as small as making a meal for my best friend’s hurting family, turned into something as huge as her father forgiving the boy who accidentally killed his daughter. Overall, this project truly blessed me just as much as it blessed others.”
Ferrell, Green and Michele Kline said they would continue to pay it forward. They also said they learned the world can be a better place with a little bit of kindness.

It was hard to choose who to pay it forward to. There is so much need out there and how do you justify who needs help more than someone else?” said Ferrell. “We often find ourselves in situations daily that we can have the opportunity to pay it forward and some people do it naturally without realizing they have done so. By being involved in this project, it made me realize that I am not as cynical as I thought I had become.”

For Koshar, she hopes the project has an impact beyond the classroom assignment.

“I would like to think I paid it forward by lighting a spark of fellowship in those who were watching (the movie),” Koshar said. “I am at SMC to make a difference. I hope I did!”

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